Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Presidential-Size Opportunity Presented by Social Media


As a result of social media, we communicate in a different way than just 10 short years ago. We view fans and followers with heightened attention. We conceptualize ideas in terms of images and photos in a way we never did before, and BYW, we speak in capital letters rather than complete sentences.

While many individuals have developed a personal digital footprint, businesses – small, medium, and large – have also developed a presence on their preferred social platforms, some based on a specific industry. But where are all the Presidents of mid-sized businesses? If your company leader is AWOL from social media, isn’t it time for your brand to benefit from his or her participation?

Have you heard of Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, and Elon Musk? They’re the leaders and key storytellers of Virgin Atlantic airlines, the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, and the Tesla electric vehicle. But in addition to their countless accomplishments, they are also active in social media. All three are prominent on Twitter, which means that if they have product news, event news, or even a simple response to John Q. Public, it’s available for the world to read – in real time.

“Leaders who don’t understand social media are placing their company at risk of not capitalizing on business opportunities, as well as exposing it to unnecessary risk,” says Walter Adamson, a social media strategist of Kinship Enterprise in Australia.

And isn’t your President/CEO the number one brand ambassador among all of your employees? He or she could use the social platform of choice – whether Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or LinkedIn – and provide industry tips, interviews of employees, interviews of industry experts, commentary about industry news, and the list goes on and on. Depending on the platform chosen, the posts could be short or long.

Employees would notice that the top brand ambassador has a social presence and that he or she wants to engage with both internal and external stakeholders. This would result in more social activity by employees, customers, and others. Media might even become interested in your brand, and that could yield media coverage.

So the question for all Presidents/CEOs is this: Do you have 10 minutes a day? Pick a social platform – probably Twitter and Facebook would be the best places to start. Then ask yourself, what you would say if you encountered Bill Gates in an elevator for two minutes? How would you describe your competitive advantage? What news would you share about your business? What advice would you seek? Now share some of that conversation on your preferred social platform – but be brief. See how easy that was? And here’s the secret: repeat tomorrow, the next day, and the next. 


You’ll be surprised by the rise in fans and followers, your brand awareness, and maybe, even in your sales.



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To read more, check out:
Weber Shandwick Study on the Social CEO:
http://www.webershandwick.com/uploads/news/files/Social-CEO-Study.pdf

“Is Your C-Suite Social?” by @JackieFunk
http://blog.serious4social.com/?p=84

“Five Reasons the C-Suite Can’t Ignore Social Media” by @Damian_Corbet
http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140331153610-28747562-5-reasons-why-the-c-suite-can-t-ignore-social-media

“Top 50 Social Chief Executive Officers on Twitter” by @ValaAfshar
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vala-afshar/the-top-50-social-chief-e_b_3380055.html

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

Do You Create Brand Experiences?


Brands stand out among the competition for a variety of reasons. Your customer service may be exceptional.  You may offer discounts or buy-one-get-one-free offers. Or you may have partnerships with other trendy brands. But in today's social economy, one way to generate interest in your brand is to create a “brand experience.” According to Marty Neumeier, a brand experience is "all the interactions people have with a product, service, or organization; the raw material of a brand."

I’d like to introduce Chris Beninati to my blog. Chris is the founder of Social Demand, an experiential marketing agency in Southampton, New York. Social Demand creates unique experiences for lifestyle brands through campaign development, brand strategy, and special events. Chris and I met through Twitter and after several conversations in 140 characters or less, we decided we had much more to say. Connect with Chris on Twitter @cbeninati and learn more about his company at www.socialdemandny.com. Highlights of our conversation follow below.
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QUESTION: How do you define a brand experience?
CHRIS BENINATI: My team and I ask ourselves this question on a daily basis because it's at the heart of why we do what we do. No matter what you sell, you must realize that your company is now a lifestyle brand: a brand has a consistent style and voice across multiple social channels, expressed to millions of consumers. If you aren't looking around and asking, "How does our brand fit into our target audience’s lifestyle?," then you're losing.

QUESTION: What makes a successful brand experience? Please provide three examples.
CHRIS BENINATI: The best brand experiences are when the brand allows the audience to take the reins and, for example, connect with each other at an event. Too many brands try to plug themselves and give too many up-front calls-to-action. The most successful campaigns come from putting the audience first -- find out what they enjoy and provide that joy to them. When people realize that a brand made an amazing experience happen, they'll be more likely to engage in positive word-of-mouth and further support the brand.

Three examples I like are from brands who gave back to their consumers and incorporated the lifestyle of their target audiences within their campaigns.

[1] The app Uber used Ice Cream trucks to promote its brand and service. It gave consumers a call-to-action to download the app and request “Ice Cream.” If they were lucky, a truck soon arrived with free ice cream. This was great because it showed people how to use the service in a fun (and delicious) way. (Check out the details: http://blog.uber.com/2013/07/17/ubericecream)
 

[2] I loved the Canadian Airline West Jet “Christmas Miracle” campaign. The airline asked travelers traveling to Toronto what they wanted from Santa. When they arrived in Toronto, all of the requested gifts were at the airport when they landed. Big time emotional connection and social advocacy with a video that went viral overnight. No one who has seen the video will ever forget it. (Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/zIEIvi2MuEk)
 

[3] I also loved Heineken’s “Departure Roulette En Route” campaign offering travelers to take a risk and travel to a new country or city unplanned. This showcased a sense of adventure and living with an open mind. (Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/HqXOiQ1c42c)

QUESTION: Why should mid-sized businesses be especially aware of the brand experience in today’s social era?
CHRIS BENINATI: Today, many mid-sized businesses are winning over gigantic corporations because they essentially "never turn off." Due to real time social connectivity, brands are exposed more than ever. This is a good thing for companies with the ability to be available 24/7 – or with fewer layers of management for decision-making. They are also aware of industry trends or shifts and are able to adapt or change directions quicker.

QUESTION: With all the buzz surrounding social ROI, what metrics are important to you in the social space and why?
CHRIS BENINATI: Social ROI is important, but everyone’s metrics may be different based on their objectives. For me, content engagement is big because we want people not only to be exposed to what we're doing but also to join the conversation. Although it's becoming less of a key metric as our social knowledge grows, I think follower count is important - always aim to grow an audience that is interested in what your brand brings to the table.

QUESTION: What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
CHRIS BENINATI: Next year, I believe we'll be talking about new technology to measure the quality of our engagement on social channels. I also think focus will grow on how user-generated marketing can fit into brand and product development, at the first step instead of the last.

Will you now allocate marketing time and dollars toward creating brand experiences? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Who Does Your Brand Talk to in Social Media?

Recently, I was guilty of what many of us are doing more and more these days: I was watching television with my smartphone close at hand. Was I watching a specific TV show or was I reading what people were saying about the show on Twitter? The answer is probably not too surprising, and as a result, advertisers that used to spend their dollars solely on TV are now including Twitter in their ad campaigns.

My recent experience started as simply visiting a Twitter account due to a search for a TV ad. But as I read some of the recent tweets, I read a question and replied.


I responded to the question and then focused my attention elsewhere. But lo and behold, there was someone managing the brand’s Twitter account in real time. A tweet appeared with a personal message to me. I smiled and responded…and another tweet appeared.

But it was the theme of the message that stuck with me, and continues to resonate. I was not a customer, but the team behind this brand and this Twitter account believed that a conversation with me was important and worth their time.
 

In today’s era of instant communication, business decisions can be made in a split second and sometimes not even for valid reasons. This is why it’s even more critical to interact with prospective customers at every possible opportunity, venue, and forum.

In the words of Shep Hyken, customer service expert and New York Times best-selling author (@Hyken on Twitter), “Many companies use social media as a way to respond to publicly-voiced customer complaints. But the best companies also use social media as a way to deliver value and engage in conversations. It’s about being a part of – and contributing to – a community.”

So, who does your business talk to in social media? Which networks do you use most often? Do you spend the same amount of time and effort to create positive brand experiences for people who don’t yet pay for your products or services? Do you train your customer service and sales teams how to interact with prospects when sales may not close? Do you have surveys to monitor why customers don’t renew or become repeat customers, and what do you do with the data obtained by those surveys?

In addition, in today's social era (also known as the era of instant communication), social networks (including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc) offer a real-time alternative to surveys because they are able to capture the pulse of your intended audience and peripheral or unintended audiences.

How you move forward with this data is up to your company, but if you fall on the mid-size spectrum, you can definitely modify your future product or service announcements, event news, and company direction if you listen to, and engage with, customers and prospects in the social space.

Use all of these questions to learn how to re-energize your business. And in the process, don’t forget to treat prospective customers as if they were VIP customers – because one day, they might be, and you want them to know why they should be enthusiastic advocates for your brand!

Where do you think I will go the next time I’m shopping for insurance?

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To read more about how the marketing function is evolving, read “Marketing Can No Longer Rely on the Funnel” by Mark Bonchek and Cara France via Harvard Business Review:
http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/05/marketing-can-no-longer-rely-on-the-funnel/

Image Credits: Courtesy of Twitter 




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why Brand Advocacy Is Closely Tied to Employee Engagement


Employee engagement is an objective of most businesses, but sadly, many lack the leadership capabilities and/or the human resources staff to implement strategies that result in long-term employee engagement. Recently, Mark Herbert and I discussed the importance of employee engagement and its impact on brand advocacy. Mark and I met back in 2011 as a result of our social media activities, and I was immediately impressed by Mark's insights gained by more than 30 years of experience as an HR executive, author, and management consultant in a variety of organizational settings ranging from entrepreneurial to Fortune 100. Currently, Mark is Principal for New Paradigms, a management consulting firm in Arizona that helps companies embrace change to engage their employees.

A company’s size shouldn't really affect how employee engagement is viewed, but the reality is, it does. For one-person operations, family businesses, and small businesses, employees wear multiple hats to keep the operation running. For large and multi-national businesses, there are policies and procedures to follow, legal and compliance regulations to adhere to, shareholder requirements to adhere to, and as a result, employee engagement is not the tip of the priority iceberg. But for mid-size businesses, the alignment of employee engagement and brand advocacy can make a significant impact on business success.


I credit Mark for one of my favorite leadership quotes that plays a large part in developing employee engagement: “Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room…It requires you to block and tackle for others.” Highlights from our discussion follow below. 
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QUESTION: How do you define employee engagement?
MARK HERBERT: This is an excellent question as I think much of the debate around employee engagement stems from the fact we don’t have a common definition. In my opinion and approach, engagement is about alignment and commitment. An organization has a clearly articulated set of values and goals, and its talent management strategies (ranging from recruitment and selection to compensation and training) reinforce those values and goals.

QUESTION: What are some characteristics that identify businesses that don't understand employee engagement?
MARK HERBERT: When I see organizations that delegate responsibility for engagement to their human resources department or who rely exclusively on an annual or semi-annual survey to define or measure engagement, they don’t get it.
* When I hear organizations refer to their employees as “human capital,” they don’t get it.
* When I see HR professionals indicate that the most important role they play in their organization is compliance with State and Federal regulations, they don’t get it.
* When I see organizations that don’t invest in training and development and who define engagement through tenure rather than performance, they don’t get it.

QUESTION: What are some characteristics that identify businesses that completely understand the value of employee engagement?
MARK HERBERT: When I see organizations that talk about how they hire for aptitude and attitude and train for skill, they get it.
* When I hear C-level execs talk about the importance of their culture and how recruitment, selection, and development reinforce alignment with that philosophy, they get it.
* When I hear C-level execs express personal ownership and commitment to an engagement culture, they get it.
* When you hear from Virgin, Starbucks, or Zappos talking about employee engagement, it isn’t their personnel department reps being quoted in the media.

QUESTION: Which businesses have implemented effective employment engagement strategies? Please provide examples of how these businesses accomplished this.
MARK HERBERT: Google spent a lot of time and energy investigating the characteristics that are represented in their best managers and embedded them in their leadership training and assessment. Zappos and Amazon also maintain a strict adherence to their cultures. Both offer financial landing packages to employees who don’t feel like they can, or want to, continue to be engaged with the corporate goals and values. These organizations have an employment brand that is deeply woven into the fabric of their business, and a commitment to the brand isn’t optional for anyone employed there.

QUESTION: How do a corporate culture and the onboarding process intersect with employee engagement?
MARK HERBERT: They don’t intersect, they are totally intertwined.
Check out this survey of 20,000 employees in which they described the 7 stages of disengagement:
* Number 7 - they didn’t trust senior leadership
* Number 6 - they felt they didn’t have appropriate work/life balance
* Number 5 - they felt devalued and unrecognized
* Number 4 - they didn’t see a clear career path
* Number 3 - they didn’t receive meaningful feedback and coaching
* Number 2 - they didn’t feel like they were a good fit with the job or organization
* Number 1 - they didn’t feel the job met their understanding or expectations of what they signed on for
Look specifically at numbers 1 and 2. This is a huge fail and a huge opportunity. Employees are essentially internal customers/stakeholders. C-level execs/leadership teams have to deliver on the brand promise to them just as they deliver on the brand promise to external customers.

QUESTION: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become brand ambassadors?
MARK HERBERT: If you properly develop and consistently execute on an employment brand that begins with hiring, and selection is reinforced by your other talent management systems, you will build your brand rather than trying to bolt it on. It is a process and a journey that you never "arrive" at – it must be continuously reinforced and refined. When you hire and manage whole people, they come to work every day aligned with your brand. This can be translated to mean that they are invested in the outcome of what your business does and what it stands for. In short, employees become brand advocates or brand ambassadors.

QUESTION: What is the number one impact of engaged employees?
MARK HERBERT: There are several:
* It could be the 20% per capita productivity advantage
* The 147% earnings per share advantage that highly engaged organizations enjoy
* The retention advantage (engaged employees are 60% more likely to remain) when voluntary turnover is up 45%, and cost per hire is up 15% year to year
* The idea that in 2012, Gallup indicated that the level of employee engagement might be the most accurate predictor of long-term organizational performance and sustainability available to both internal management and investors
* The US economy could recoup and redeploy the $550 billion annually that the Department of Labor estimates we lose to disengagement

How much time and effort does your business allocate in creating engaged employees and turning them into brand ambassadors? Please chime in.
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Check out my review of Mark's book, Managing Whole People, on my blog:
http://debbielaskey.blogspot.com/2011/06/tips-to-engage-your-workforce.html

Read more on Mark's Blog: http://newparadigmsllc.com/wordpress 

Connect on Twitter: http://twitter.com/NewParadigmer
 

Check out my "Employee Engagement" Board on Pinterest:
http://www.pinterest.com/debbielaskeymba/employee-engagement

Image Credit: stockimages via FreeDigitalPhotos.net





This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What’s the Impact of Social Media on Brand Identity?





There’s no doubt that social media has become a useful tool for marketing promotions, building buzz around both old and new brands, and initiating online discussions and engagement. CEOs and corporate Presidents can be found on Twitter sharing both corporate and personal news, and as a result, we have come to know more about their leadership styles. But while all this positive activity has occurred due to social media, there has also been a negative impact on the category of marketing known as brand identity.

Here are five ways that social media has made an impact on brand identity:

LOGOS
What are some of the most well-known logos in the world? Did you think of Coca-Cola, Nike, BMW, Disney, or Apple? While these logos have become part of our psyche, they also easily fit into squares. While many social media platforms have given us platforms to share our commentary, they have also provided us with squares to feature our corporate logos. This may not seem like a big deal, but if your corporate logo has a long name or an odd shape, it doesn’t fit into a square. The result may not be good for your marketing, or brand identity, because you will have to modify your logo to fit the social platform, and in the process, do the unthinkable – change your logo.

TAGLINES
What are some of the most well-known taglines in the word? There’s Apple’s “Think Different.” And BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” And Nike’s “Just Do It.” And American Express’ “Don’t Leave Home Without It.” There has always been a directive of “the shorter, the better,” when marketing types get inside a room assigned with the task of creating clever and memorable taglines, but with the advent of social media, how easy is it to include a tagline to profile sections? The bottom line is that profile squares, or boxes that feature a logo, simply cannot accommodate a tagline. What does this mean for businesses that require the inclusion of their tagline to tell their story?

CELEBRATIONS
What if your business is celebrating a momentous occasion? What if you’ve added a ribbon or circle of words to your logo such as: “Celebrating 50 Years” or “Get Ready for 2015 – Our 100th Anniversary” or “Celebrating 100 Years”? Certainly these words will change your logo, but they also become a big part of your brand storytelling. The truth is, they need to be included.

MOBILE
Have you modified your website so that all design elements have been stripped from your mobile version? Does any significant design remain to reflect the messaging that all your collateral and other marketing tools reflect? How do you tell your brand story in the mobile environment? Don’t forget that your brand story is still critical despite the growth of smartphones and tablets.

CONSISTENCY
Before social media appeared on the scene, marketing tools were the “be-all, end-all.” This meant that direct mail, brochures, annual reports, fact sheets, and press kits easily told a company’s or non-profit’s story. But in today’s social media era, there are countless social platforms (a list including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram is just the tip of the social iceberg), and as a result, consistency is even more critical for brand identity. Customers and prospects are brand-savvy, so if there are inconsistent voices, inconsistent facts, and/or inconsistent presentations across the social milieu, you run the risk of losing not just one customer for life. But due to the strength of word-of-mouth marketing in the social space, you run the risk of losing countless customers for life. So make sure your priority is brand consistency.

Has your brand identity been impacted by social media? Please chime in and share your story.



Image Credit: artur84 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net





This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How Does Your Business Create Social Media Circles?


While most of us are familiar with Google Plus circles, there’s a similar concept that exists throughout social media. When people network on a personal level, they develop circles of influence. But in the business environment, how does this concept of circles fit? How does your business create social media circles?

Recently, I read a post on the blog of a nationally-known expert who specializes in customer service tips and strategies, Shep Hyken. The post was not written by the blogger, but instead, by a guest contributor. Since I admire and respect the owners of the blogs I regularly read, I always check out posts by their guests.

This particular post was written by the president of a furniture store, and the title was, “Ten Tips for Achieving 100% Customer Satisfaction.” As I read the post, I was nodding my head in agreement with each tip. My favorite tips were:

[1] Never answer a question by telling a customer that something is “company policy.”

[2] Mistakes and problems always result in opportunities to create long-term loyal customers by exceeding expectations.

[3] Unhappy employees cannot create delighted customers.

When I finished reading the post, I immediately opened Twitter on my iPhone to share the post. 


I Tweeted:  Transforming an “angry” customer into an enthusiastic advocate is always worth the cost. -Jeff Frank of @SimplicitySofas via @Hyken.

Within a few moments, I noticed that my Tweet was Re-Tweeted by the Twitter account of Simplicity Sofas. That was a kind gesture, but I had not expected the Re-Tweet.

But what was even more amazing was something that happened shortly thereafter. I received an email from the post’s writer, Jeff Frank, the President of Simplicity Sofas. My email does not appear in my bio on Twitter, so Jeff had to take the time to research me on the Internet and find a way to communicate with me. In his email, he thanked me for the mention on Twitter and also shared some details about his company.

I was so impressed by Jeff’s email that I responded to him, “Hi Jeff, your outreach resulting from my Tweet of your post on Shep’s website is inspirational and represents the quintessential core of social networking. If only you were closer to my hometown in California, I would be thrilled to shop for a sofa at your showroom in North Carolina. Thanks again for showcasing the best of social, or as Vala Afshar Tweets: Don't do social, be SOCIAL: sincere, open, collaborative, interested, authentic, and likeable.”

After thanking Jeff for his email, I wrote to the blog’s owner and fellow customer service advocate, Shep Hyken, to share my memorable interaction with Jeff. Shep responded, “Hi Debbie, It really is amazing how connections are made. Jeff’s company does amazing customer service.”

This exchange made me think about how most businesses use and view social media. In today’s social climate, many of us in the marketing arena think about ROI and metrics on a daily basis, but too often, we lose sight of the simple ways to measure our social media marketing efforts: one-on-one connections. Ask yourself, when was the last time your business continued a conversation past a single Tweet or single Facebook post? When did a telephone call result from a Tweet or a Facebook post? When did your business follow a Tweet or Facebook comment with a letter from your President?

If your business doesn’t spend the time to really develop personal relationships with prospective customers, you’re losing out on what makes social media such an effective marketing tool.


Inspiration for this post:
Ten Tips for Achieving 100% Customer Satisfaction by Jeff Frank on Shep Hyken’s Blog:
http://www.hyken.com/customer-loyalty/guest-post-10-tips-achieving-100-customer-satisfaction/ 

 


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Leadership Is All About Serving Others

Would You Bring A Ladder to Your Employees If They Needed One?

Leadership has many definitions, and when you ask 100 people, it's likely that you'll get more than 100 definitions. One definition for leadership is that leaders serve others. How often have you thought about leadership from that perspective? Someone who has given much thought to this perspective is James Strock, an entrepreneur, professional speaker, and citizen servant. He has served in a wide range of roles, from chief executive to board member to consultant; from starting up and turning around businesses and public agencies; to serving as an author and speaker, adviser, and mentor. Recently, Jim and I discussed a variety of leadership topics, and the highlights follow below.
_______________________________________________________________________________

QUESTION: How do you differentiate between a leader and a manager?
JAMES STROCK: A leader’s capacity to serve others - to add value - is based in large part on crafting a vision. A leader can help us to find a path to understanding and action. Ideally, he or she enables us to see our way to break new paths. By contrast, a manager adds value by advancing the vision. He or she directs scarce resources in the most effective way. Of course, in practice, the lines between managing and leading can be blurred. An effective leader must have a sure sense of resources and their application. An effective manager likely has cultivated leadership skills.

QUESTION: What three things can an individual do to inspire others?
JAMES STROCK: Serve, serve, and serve again. The farther one serves others, the more one can inspire others. Courage - giving one’s heart and well-being to the service of others - is invariably inspiring.

QUESTION: How can an individual gain respect without a leadership title?
JAMES STROCK: Achieving results, working effectively with others, these are approaches that will be recognized and rewarded in any properly functioning enterprise. Today, more than ever, leadership and position are recognized as not necessarily being one and the same.

QUESTION: What three things can individuals do to create a positive leadership legacy?
JAMES STROCK: Leadership legacies are vitalized through relationships with future generations. It’s said that life is short, art is long. Accomplishments per se can distinguish a life. And yet, most individual accomplishments are forgotten over time. Leadership is an art. It can have enduring impact, to the extent it inspires new generations.

Three things that people can do to create such a leadership legacy are:
1. Think of the rising generations always.
2. Study history. History provides examples of lasting leadership legacies.
3. Craft a vision that builds upon fundamentals. That will open up historical examples with relevance today. And a vision built on fundamentals can have continuing relevance - even as future generations build on it to meet their own goals.

QUESTION: What three tips would you give to a new leader?
JAMES STROCK: One can become a “leader” or a “new leader” anytime, simply by one’s own decision. Leadership is all about the service. This can be seen as profound or aspirational; it’s also entirely practical. In any kind of new leadership role, three areas of focus come to mind.

First: listen, listen, listen. Observe with an artist’s eye for detail. Leadership, by definition, is about working with others, serving others. Listening is at the core of all effectiveness. It’s also an unmistakable manifestation of virtues that make a difference: love, humility, a servant’s perspective.

Second, if your new role includes responsibility for others’ well-being, make certain that you adjust your own day-to-day, hour-by-hour attention and work toward that end. Many people who are “promoted” from staff positions, where their work is directed by others, have some difficulty in making this adjustment.

Third, remember that first impressions matter. They can advance your goals dramatically. Or, mishandled, they can set your cause back.

QUESTION: Can you provide some examples of impressive leadership that you've seen in your experiences?
JAMES STROCK: Once one internalizes the notion that “everyone can lead, because everyone can serve,” one notices great and small acts of leadership everywhere. Here's one example from history: the presidential leadership of Theodore Roosevelt. Among his greatest legacies is America’s commitment to environmental protection as a fundamental value. TR’s push for environmental stewardship was not the result of public or interest group pressure, much less polling. He saw that there were a series of challenges that were not yet recognized, much less seen as related: building the “national character,” properly conserving the nation’s resources, and connecting past and future generations to the American project. Roosevelt’s example - of moving the nation to action, in the absence of a universally-recognized crisis such as a war or calamitous economic downturn - is quite relevant at the dawn of the 21st century.

I have compiled a list of inspiring 21st Century Leaders with reasons why I chose them. Some members of the list include: Jeff Bezos, Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Tony Hsieh, Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Indra Nooyi, and Howard Shultz. 


Check out this page on my website at http://servetolead.org/21st-century-leaders-list.

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert:
Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others. What does this quote mean to you?
JAMES STROCK: Such a fundamental, clarifying insight is embedded in that fine quotation! Ronald Reagan put it this way: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” Lao Tzu merits the last word: “Fail to honor people, they will fail to honor you. But of a Great Leader, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, the people will all say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”

Learn more insights from James Strock on his website at www.servetolead.org, and connect on Twitter at @jamesstrock.

Image Credit: jesadaphorn via FreeDigitalPhotos.net




This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.