Sunday, October 31, 2010

The 15% Solution

Adopting the Gates/Buffett template to make a difference

I read an interesting article recently of the efforts by Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to persuade the billionaires in the USA to pledge at least half their net worth solving the social and medical problems of the world.

The trio are asking the wealthiest Americans to pledge 50% of their net worth to charities during their lifetimes or at death.

What effect will this have on philanthropic institutions? Nothing short of HUGE.

The Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest people in America estimates their total wealth of approximately US$1.2 trillion. Half of that would result in US$600 billion being channeled to charities.

This will certainly make a difference!

To date, some 40 pledges to give the majority of their wealth have been made. You can see the list of these donors, and read their own comments, at

As the site says, these pledges are a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. Also, it does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations.

Having attracted interest in their movement domestically, the Gates pair have also had meetings in London, India and China to enlist interest and support outside America.

Of course, this concept need not remain the domain of the super wealthy.

Those of us who are Baby Boomers will, over the next 15-20 years, be the beneficiaries of the greatest transfer of inherited wealth the world has ever seen.

What is 10%, or 15%, or even 20% of that inheritance pool was diverted to charities? Can you imagine the positive impact this would have?

What would it take to create a 15% Giving Pledge within your local community or social network? What would it take to create a 15% Giving Pledge nationally?

Having read the article on the 50% pledge challenge, I pulled out my own will and did a quick calculation of the charitable contributions listed. Let's just say the figure fell a bit south of the 8% mark. I now pledge to increase this to 15% in an updated version.

Mrs. and Mr. Gates, along with their pal Mr. Buffett, have given us the template.

Let's make a difference at our own socio-economic levels. Let's put the 15% Solution to work -- for the future of our children and grandchildren and the world they will inherit.

After all, if they collectively inherit a better world, wouldn't this be better than simply leaving them only our accumulated assets and bank accounts?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Changing what’s normal - Business Building in the 21st century Part 3

I have a thriving business today because I have embraced 9 massive changes to business building strategies and tactics that have occurred over my 19 years in business for myself. See my 25th and 28th of October blogs for my insights on the first six changes. Today I am exploring the final three.

6) generalist to niche

Once I tried to be all things to all people. I learned the hard way that I can only truly serve people in certain niches. Are you open for business to everyone or are you the go to person for certain people?

7) provider to partner

I was once a provider of certain services and usually I was hired for a specific period of time to provide a specific solution or meet a particular need. Today I don’t provide my clients with solutions to their challenges or problems, rather I partner with them to discover their own solutions. A consequence is that I get paid for the value that I provide rather than the time it takes.

Do your customers/clients see you as a partner or a provider? If your answer is provider then it won’t be long before someone makes your customers/clients a perceived better offer and you will lose their loyalty. Being perceived as a partner is a key way to build loyalty and therefore retain customers/clients.

8) service to experience

Providing our customers/clients with great customer service is a given today. Provide less than high standards of service and people will simply go somewhere else. What kind of experience do you provide for your customers/clients before they buy, when they buy, and after they buy? Unless your answer is memorable across the board, then you are not building the business you could be and not only are you are missing out on significant income and profits, you are most likely go backwards.

9) strategic planning to strategic synergy

I have had to read 100’s of strategic plans over my two decades as business advisor and mentor, and for a few years I helped to create them. In the past decade I have partnered my clients to separate determining strategy from the plans to execute it. I agree with Alan Weiss that strategic planning is an oxymoron!

I define strategy simply as the big picture how to get from where we are to where we want to be. Tactics are the actions we take to execute our strategy. As a general rule six words are all you need to describe your strategy!

The great writer Ernest Hemingway thought the following were six of his best words: For Sale: Baby shoes, Never worn.

Inspired by Hemingway, my friend and colleague Kwai Yu, founder of Leaders Cafe, asked the following question on a LinkedIn discussion: Who are you? Could you tell the story of you in six words?

Kwai received hundreds of extraordinary responses which inspired me to think about a way I could best teach people about strategy! I now work with my clients to help them describe their strategy in 6 words and when this is accomplished it becomes one of the best engagement of people tools I have ever developed.

Could you describe your strategy in 6 words?

There you have it, 9 massive changes to business building. How do you measure up?

Complete the following fast audit and see where you are and then take massive action to get to where you want to be.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Giving yourself full permission

Are you revealing, even reveling in, the undiluted you? Or are you hiding your light under the proverbial basket? Yesterday I was listening to a colleague talk at a conference about the concept of full permission. I'm not printing her name here for reasons that will become evident as this idea unfolds.

When you are afraid, when you feel at risk, do you work to conceal yourself, to adapt yourself to the expectations you think that other people hold for you? Or do you allow yourself to walk around in all your glory whether somebody else likes it or not?

When you give yourself full permission you don't dilute yourself - rather you reveal yourself. Instead of walking timidly and carefully you stride into the room with purpose and the light heart that comes from being congruent with yourself.

My friend and colleague described her most embarrassing moment ever - when she was fourteen and competing in a speech-making event. She was walking toward the stage ready to take her turn in a completely quiet room when she was surprised by a rather loud digestive backfire - and realized that it had come from her! There was no denying the source of the sound, nor the origin of the delightful fragrance that wafted through the room immediately afterward.

She told us that she thinks about that occasion when she considers giving herself full permission. Why not live out loud? (No pun intended, but I find myself chuckling anyway.) Perhaps from time to time there is the potential for embarrassment, but what about all of those other occasions when you might be tempted to edit out the very behavior, attitudes and attributes that help you bring your unique value to the people around you?

When a friend asks you for your opinion, do you really help them by not telling them what you think? When you're in a meeting and you've got an idea for solving a problem, do you sit quiet because you have the shortest tenure and least authority in the group? When you feel like dancing do you settle for tapping your feet? None of these approaches helps you contribute to the well-being of the world around you.

When instead of fearing, editing and hiding you give yourself full permission - you embrace yourself for the complex and wonderful person you are. You show up with all flags flying, wearing no disguises. You put it out there. Certainly some people might not like it. But there are those who will treasure you for those exact same traits. And you will be able to use all of the energy you used to expend on the editing and hiding and diluting - on manifesting the results you'd like to see in your life. What a breath of fresh air!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Changing what’s normal - Business Building in the 21st century Part 2

Much has changed in my two decades in business as a catalyst for changing what’s normal.

I have a thriving business today because I have embraced 9 massive changes to business building strategies and tactics that have occurred over my time in business for myself; spin to story, what to why, interruption marketing to permission based marketing, media to mass media, expert to thought leader, generalist to niche, provider to partner, service to experience, and complicated strategy to simplified strategy.

See my 25th October blog for my thoughts on spin to story, and what to why. Today I am exploring the next three.

3) interruption marketing to permission based marketing (my thanks to Seth Godin)

In the early days of my business I had to cold call. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was the fact that people saw my call as an interruption to their work. Advertising of cause is the biggest way we interrupt people which is why many of us mute the ads when we are watching television. Today if we are seen as interrupting people it is unlikely that they will hear our message.

In what ways do you have permission to communicate your message to people. Do you have an electronic newsletter for example that people have opted-in to receive? Do you have numerous ways to collect people’s details and do they know what will happen on a frequent basis once you have their details?

4) media to mass media

When I first started my business, phone books, newspapers, magazines, radio and television were the media available to me, and most were inaccessible as I didn’t know anyone in the media, and I didn’t have a lot of funds to spend. Today we can use a multitude of media channels to add value and attract customers/clients, for free!

Are you blogging? Are you on YouTube? Are you using Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media sites to build relationships. Today one of the big questions we must ask and answer thoroughly is - What is our strategy for using social media to build our business?

5) expert to thought leader

I could easily validate my expertise when I first started my business. Today being a expert or being seen as having a quality product or service is a given. In order to thrive we must be seen as leaders in our fields of expertise or leaders in our product/s or service/s otherwise we get ignored. How are you perceived in your markets? Are you seen as a leader or just one of many? In all your business building activities are you positioning yourself as a stand out? And do you prove your standing in all your transactions and interactions with people?

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Changing what’s normal - Business Building in the 21st century Part 1

I left the corporate world and started my own business in 1991, the year the internet became publicly available. That’s 11 years before LinkedIn and 13 years before Facebook!

I didn’t have my own website until 2000. In that year less than 500 people visited my website. Today more than 10 times that amount of people visit my website every month. The numbers have dramatically increased since I began blogging in May 2007, three years after the launch of Facebook.

Much has changed in my two decades in business as a catalyst for changing what’s normal.

I have a thriving business today because I have embraced 9 massive changes to business building strategies and tactics that have occurred over my time in business for myself; spin to story, what to why, interruption marketing to permission based marketing, media to mass media, expert to thought leader, generalist to niche, provider to partner, service to experience, and complicated strategy to simplified strategy.

In this blog I explore the first two changes. I will explore the others in subsequent blogs.

1) spin to story

Authentic stories sell. Most people ignore advertising because they don’t see it as the truth about our product or service. People embrace real stories about real people which is why genuine testimonials about what we do and case studies about how we have helped people to meet their wants and needs are key ways to attract customers/clients.

What are people saying about your product/s and/or service/s? Are you using what people are saying about you as a key way to build your business?

It is accepted, sadly, that politicians make promises, fail to deliver, and then spin the facts to explain why they can’t deliver! To do this as a business person is to risk losing business, customers/clients, and our reputation. Please don’t spin the facts. Tell authentic stories. Such stories become viral by word of mouth, which is still the most powerful way to grow our businesses.

2) what to why

“Doing well by doing good” or enlightened self-interest is a key way to build our businesses which is why so many people have embraced the triple bottom line of environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic prosperity.

How good is your business for people, and our planet? If you are doing good for people and our planet it is likely that you are making higher profits.

Profit is not a reason for being in business, rather a result of being good at business. What’s your reason for being in business? Douglas Atkin, author of The Culting of Brands, asks: What’s your cause? What do you want to have happen? If you’re not out to cause anything then you might as well go back to bed.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
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Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's good business to increase complaints!

The American Express Global Customer Barometer has highlighted the importance of being easy to complain to, especially in places like Australia.

The Australian figures, second to Mexico, highlighted that 86% of Australians will cease doing business with an organisation after a bad service experience. Yet the majority of these Australians will not tell the organisation about their experience. Rather, they will tell their social network, especially if asked. The research reveals that the reason for this behaviour is that Australians find organisations notoriously hard to complain to. So instead they simply switch and tell their friends.

What is interesting is that approximately one in two of these same Australians are willing to give an organisation a second chance, especially if they have previously had good service experiences with that organisation. The issue is that after the second chance, the Australians will simply 'disappear' as customers, especially if there is a viable alternative that is available to them.

The pure economics of the above statistics highlight that it is good business to increase complaints. If an organisation were to become 'easy' to complain to, that same organisation would have more of a chance to 'recover' the customer and maintain a positive relationship with them and stop them from leaving. In simple terms this means that the company ensures that future expenditure from this customer will remain with them.

We are fortunate to live in a world where a customer complaint can be made to a social network and, if you are easy to complain to, that complaints will be heard even though it wasn't said directly to your organisation. At the end of the day it doesn't really matter where the complaint is made, it matters that it is heard and acted upon.

As an example I recently had a poor service experience about an organisation. I 'tweeted' that I was going to write a blog about my experience, which I did the following day. Within eight hours of posting my blog I was contacted by a representative of the company asking for more details and wanting to know how they could resolve my issue for me. Within a couple of days a resolution for my poor experience had been created and I have remained a client of that organisation.

I had no idea that the company had set up (due to a recommendation from a teenage casual contact centre staff member) a 'twitter watch' and a 'blog watch' to look for complaints (and positive comments) so that they could fix them as quickly as possible.

It is in this manner that an increase in customer complaints should be seen as a positive measure rather than a negative one. Unfortunately it is my experience that most companies see increased complaints as a poor result rather than a positive one. Alas, most companies are poor to complain to because they don't want their complaints metrics to rise. Silly, isn't it!

How easy is your organisation to complain to and what are some examples of how this is done?

Gary Ryan has led service excellence award winning teams in multiple categories and is a co-creator of the OTM Service Strategy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is the customer always right?

Many people I talk to believe the customer is always right and some say the customer is always right even when they are wrong!

I don’t believe the customer is always right and I don’t believe the customer is right even when they are wrong. In fact I don’t even believe in right or wrong.
I simply believe there are many different ways to perceive situations.

I do believe people are first; customers, employees, and everybody else.

I live the philosophy in ethics called enlightened self-interest which is commonly expressed as doing well while doing good.

Zig Ziglar puts it this way:
You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.

Get really clear about what you stand for. Seek out people who stand for the same things. Simon Sinek calls this Start with Why. And then find out what is the value that people who stand for what you stand for, demand, desire, and feel that they deserve from you. And then provide whatever these things are.

I don’t believe business is more complicated than this. What do you think?

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Albert Einstein

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The Silent Crisis

Saturday, October 16, 2010

If Only You Could Feel What I Feel! You'd Give Up Your Horse For This Kingdom!

It's no big deal. We eat, we sleep, go to work, do all we need to do to make our life comfortable and provide for our families. We think about ourselves and those close to us. If we are moved by some cause we open the checkbook. We feel we have done our duty for humanity. In the profession we are in we provide a service. What else should we be expected to do? Isn't that enough?

At 70 I am beginning a new journey. The fork in the road appeared three years ago while I was singing my heart out in Las Vegas. I had been in the desert for 23 years and was, for the second time, a widower. Had been alone, me and my guitar, for five years. I was comfortable, but not fulfilled.

The calling from my soul was a gentle progression, a nudge of sort that came from self reflection during all the hours with me and my memories.

To do something different and to be close to my daughters and grand kids in San Diego and Los Angeles, I had finally succumbed to the lure: I bought myself a plane. No, it wasn’t a mid life crisis. I believed I should be rewarded for years of struggle and a dream that the family’s responsibilities had kept on hold since 1971 when I had gotten my commercial pilot license. Then show business burst wide open from my heart and the flying career was exchanged for the lights of the cities and the marquees that saw my name.

Now something was telling me I needed to be of service to the world, but in a different way. Checkbook not required. This time something of more significance was being asked of me, but I didn’t know what that was. I knew I had to leave the desert. With my heart in my throat and faith in my heart I leaped into the unknown, accompanied by a new lady holding my hand during the 2000 miles journey eastward, to Michigan. ‘Go East, young man!’ the soul was saying.

Now, three years later, three years of daily study, Boni and I have found the answer, the purpose, the meaning. Service is the foundation to all prosperity or, as Tolstoy put it, ‘The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.’

Away from the lights, Boni and I have found our true light. We have embarked on a journey to save six million children from dying of starvation. We have joined forces with a network of philanthropreneurs whose mission is to build a group of entrepreneurs bound together by the philanthropic vision of ending world hunger by 2020.

Our goal is to provide 500 million meals a year by that time. Big heart needed. Checkbook not required. Satisfaction guaranteed. Apply within.

I feel I am on top of the world. Not even the records I made, the stages I’ve played on, the crowds on their feet, have ever brought me such wonderful feeling of accomplishment.

If only you could feel what I feel! You’d give up your horse for this kingdom!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Educating Women

Female literacy rate important in China's economic rise

Over the years I have visited both China and India numerous times. My first trip to China was in November 1980, where I listened on a radio to the election of Ronald Reagan not far from Tiananmen Square. My initial trip to India took place in 1984.

When asked why China's economy erupted so fast while India's lagged behind, I often suggested (not always tongue-in-check) two reasons: 1) India has a more bureaucratic government structure and more political debate, and 2) China has fewer lawyers.

Now I have a serious answer to the question of why India cannot catch up to China's economy, and the credit goes back to Chairman Mao.

From the July 5, 2010 issue of FORTUNE Magazine comes this pearl of insight: "Even in the darkest days of unreformed communism, China educated its women, with the consequence that it now has an adult female literacy rate of 90%. India's is just 54.5%."

When education is linked to any sort of economic opportunity, there is a method for people to work and earn their way out of poverty.

Want to make a difference in the lives of Aboriginal communities in Australia? Work on creating literacy of girls and young women in these communities.

Want to end hunger and poverty anywhere in the world? Create programs that marry female education and employment opportunities.

Looking to create a program that will make a difference for generations to come? Improving female literacy rates in impoverished communities or nations is undoubtedly one to consider.

What can you, or your company, do in this area today and into the future?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Improve your listening by enhancing the quality of your conversations

So you are in yet another meeting. The conversation is flying back and forth yet you feel frustrated by the lack of people really listening to each other. In fact, you find yourself waiting for a 'gap' in the conversation so you can throw your two cents worth into the debate.

The meeting ends. Everyone respectfully nods at each and walks out feeling that the meeting was largely a waste of time, again! You wonder why so many of the meetings that you attend seem to go around and around without people really listening to each other. You try to listen yourself but you find that your listening is just as bad as everyone else's. The real cost as a result of the time wasted in these meetings seems to high to even calculate. Yet the problem persists.

Yes you have been to communication workshop after communication workshop. But it seems that learning to become a better listener is like shouting at grass to grow. Just because someone says that you should listen and paraphrase and watch your body language doesn't actually mean that you'll become a better listener, just like grass won't grow any faster just because someone is shouting at it!

What if there was a technique that enabled you to become a better listener, yet didn't require you to specifically focus on listening?

If you shift your focus away from becoming a better listener to becoming a contributor to higher quality conversations, it is amazing how your listening improves! Higher quality conversations enable us to see things differently; new horizons, new possibilities, new ways of working together which result in tangible benefits such as new innovative products, new savings, better efficiencies. As Juanita Brown and David Isaacs shared in their wonderful book, The World Cafe, "...accepting the centrality of human conversation as a key organisational means for achieving desired results entails a profound shift of mind - from seeing conversation as a peripheral activity to seeing conversation as one of the organizations most valuable assets."

So how do you even start to create this profound shift of mind?

One way is to start to focus on the quality of the questions that you ask in a conversation. Think about it. What positive difference to the quality of conversations that you participate in would an improved quality of questions (even from just one person), make to that group's conversation? Brown and Isaacs suggest that focusing on the right questions themselves is a powerful way to enable people to open their minds to higher quality conversations. For example, what if in one of the meetings described above you asked, "What questions, if answered, would enable us to achieve the results that we truly desire?"
Part of the reason for the consistently low quality of conversation that many of us experience in organisations is due to the fact that most people are focusing on answers rather than discovering the right questions that are worthy of an answer. For example, how easy would you find it to come up with questions in response to the question above, without trying to answer your own questions first? It is my experience that many people are uncomfortable focusing on generating questions (without answers) largely because it is a skill that has had little attention or focus throughout their development.

At your next meeting, as you follow the conversation, try focusing on this question, "What's the most powerful question that I could ask that will help to improve the quality of this team's conversation?".

A side benefit of focusing on asking powerful questions is that your listening will improve, without you having to focus on it. Try it, you will see that this is true.

I'm interested in hearing about your experiences with regard to enhancing the quality of your workplace conversations through improving your questioning skills.

If you are interested in discovering how to ask 'Questions That Matter' you may wish to join my free webinar on that topic on Thursday 22nd October, 2010. Please register here if you are interested.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 7 New Rules of Social Media Marketing (probably not what you'd think)

When I talk to people about getting involved with social media - such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and the like - they often say they don't know how to behave in these environments. This is a genuine and valid concern. After all, your mum might have told you which cutlery goes with which course, but you probably didn't have anybody telling you the etiquette of communicating in the on-line world.

Based on my 23 years of using the Internet, I'll give you the seven most important rules for you to follow.

1. Give honest and sincere praise.

If you see something you like on-line, tell the person who created it - preferably publicly. For example:
  • If you enjoyed reading a blog post, add a comment.
  • If you like a podcast, post a review in iTunes.
  • If you enjoyed reading a book, write a review in
  • If you like a YouTube video, add a comment.
  • For all of the above, tweet about it as well.
  • Look at your LinkedIn connections, and write a recommendation for somebody in your network.
Make sure the praise is specific, and, if possible, add value to the conversation. For example, if you're adding a comment to a blog, it's OK to just write "Great blog post!"; but it's much, much better if you can also add your perspective to it.

Don't make this a sneaky marketing tactic. For example, don't look for sneaky ways to insert your Web site address in there, unless it's relevant. People see through this easily, it taints the praise, and it damages your reputation.

2. Don't criticise in public.

I recently saw a well-respected blogger rant about an e-mail he received. However, it was an internal e-mail from an organisation to its members. Rather than spending five minutes checking into the background and context of the e-mail, this guy ranted about it on his blog. It was totally out of context, and totally inappropriate. Unfortunately, because he had taken such a strong stance, when people started pointing out his error, he was too far gone to back down completely, and dug in his heels further. Although he did back down a bit, I'm sure he was glad when the torrent of comments faded away!

This is the flip side of the praise coin, of course. Assume everything you write on-line is recorded, backed up, indexed in Google, and can be used in evidence against you. Even if you meant it to be private, once it leaves your computer, you've got no control of it!

So just be on the safe side, and bite your tongue.

3. Respect other people's opinions and backgrounds.

When Australian cricketing legend Don Bradman passed away in 2001, I remember one news report that said more Indians than Australians mourned his loss. It was just one more reminder that we live in a global village.

As an Australian, I'm in a tiny, tiny minority of Internet users (less than 1%). North Americans are in a minority (15%). So are Europeans (25%), and even Asians (42%).

The motto of the Internet is "Think global, act global". Allow for differences in culture, time zones, language, Internet access, speed of access and timeliness of information.

Gone are the days when we "Westerners" would be expected to "tolerate" other cultures. In the on-line world, if anything, it's the other way around.

4. Become genuinely interested in the people in your network.

On a smaller scale, create real connections with the people in your on-line network: Your Twitter followers, your Facebook fans, your LinkedIn connections, your e-mail newsletter subscribers and your blog readers.

Of course, I'm not asking you to connect with everybody in your network. But at the very least, when somebody makes an effort to communicate with you, give them the courtesy of a reply.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking it's about quantity - the number of Twitter followers you have, for example. It's not. It's a cliche, but it really is about quality instead.

Don't think "connect"; think "re-connect".

5. Talk in terms of the other person's interests.

If you follow the previous rule and genuinely take an interest in other people, you'll find myriad ways to help them on-line.

It might be as simple as forwarding an article to them, or directing them to a YouTube video, re-tweeting something relevant, or forwarding this blog post  !

A decade or so ago, I heard business consultants recommend the idea of faxing magazine articles to clients, as a way of keeping in touch. Now you don't even have to send a fax! You can forward an e-mail, DM a tweet, send a Web link directly from your browser, take a photo on your phone and e-mail it, etc. You get the point!

By the way, I'm not saying you shouldn't send a fax (or a postcard, handwritten thank-you card, or book). I'm just saying there are easier ways as well.

6. Be a good listener.

I used to regularly tell people how important it was to survey your market before launching a new product or service, because your market will tell you exactly what problems they want solved.

I still believe in the importance of understanding your market. But I don't think surveys alone are good enough any more. Your market will expect you to know what they want. How? Because you've been listening on-line. You've been participating in discussions, reading and commenting on blog posts, joining relevant Facebook groups, monitoring LinkedIn questions, and so on.

Surveys are still useful, but they're no longer the most important piece of the puzzle. Be an active listener before you send out that survey.

7. Show them how to get what they want.

It's nice to praise, respect, connect, re-connect and listen. And even if you do nothing else but this, you'll build a strong, positive reputation on-line.

But if you really want to put the icing on the cake, help them get what they want.

This doesn't mean you have to give away your intellectual property! There are many other things you could do that don't de-value the material you charge for. For example:
  • Introduce two people in your network to each other.
  • Scan your Sent Mail folder for responses you've sent to somebody who's asked a question, and consider publishing them on your blog (on the premise that if one person found the advice useful, others might also value it).
  • If you see somebody's tweet asking for help, re-tweet it to your network as well.

How can you use these rules in your on-line world?

I've given you some specific examples here, but they are only examples. Some of them won't apply to you, and conversely you'll find other ways to achieve the same effects. The important thing, of course, is to understand the principles.

Did you like these rules?

If you did, I've got a confession to make ...

I called these the new rules of social media communication. Ummm ... That's not strictly true. I swiped all seven of these rules from Dale Carnegie's classic 1936 book "How To Win Friends and Influence People".

That's right - the basic rules of social media haven't changed in 75 years!

It's not about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, HootSuite, Blogger, TweetDeck, iPad, WordPress or Foursquare. It's first about people connecting with people, and treating each other with courtesy and respect.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Values must be verbs otherwise they are just meaningless words

You have seen the words below before. They are the most common values I see on the walls in foyers of head offices.

Values must be verbs otherwise they are just meaningless words.

In the following 5 minute story I ask, Are your values on the wall lived in the hall?

How well do you live your values?

Values must be verbs otherwise they are just meaningless words.

Until our values are virtues, signs on walls and other places demotivate people and are a major reason for disengagement.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
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Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Interconnected (literally) for a day

Yesterday's Leaders Cafe webinar marathon for the World Day of Interconnectedness, which featured Ian Berry and a number of members of the Differencemakers Community, was a fascinating experience on a number of levels:
  • Having the opportunity to hear ideas from speakers located in spots as diverse as Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Kenya, England and the US. Even more countries were represented in the 24-hour continuous webinar event, although I did choose to sleep, eat, and spend a little bit of time with my family while it was happening.
  • Seeing the stamina of our friend and colleague Kwai Yu, who manned the controls for the entire 24-hour duration. Kwai was able to contribute content in between some of the speakers, keep things rollicking in the chat window during the webinars - and all while experiencing some fairly significant sleep deprivation. I hope you had a good rest last night, Kwai!
  • Experiencing the dynamic when an event seeks to push the capabilities of technology and its users, tossing the mantle of leadership back and forth from Kwai to the presenters, and orchestrating entrances and exits without inadvertently kicking anyone off the webinar or crashing the system.
  • Acquiring the product of such substantial learning. The content shared by the presenters provided enough fodder that you'll be seeing it over the next few days and weeks here and on my own blog. Thanks to all of you presenters for being so generous with your knowledge.
Creativity and energy can be stimulated by a number of methods: reading, taking a class, engaging in planning, etc. This was my first webinar marathon, and while I'll be processing the ideas - so much to absorb - the gears are clicking along. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Cost Employee Engagement: is it really that easy?

In a short article by Patrick Lencioni - he believes employee engagement is remarkably simple if leaders understood and practiced the following
  • Be Human - get to know your people better.
  • Connect the Dots - talk to people about how their job impacts the lives of others.
  • Measure Success - help people figure out how they are doing in their job.

For me - the latter two are the same old chestnut that's been forever roasting in the 'HR' fire. We've all heard the old fable of the cleaner is helping to 'put a man on the moon' story. And we can do the same with the bin men (folks who get rid off our trash) or the street cleaner ... that is to say ... 'you are not getting rid of trash, you are vital to the health of everyone in your neighbourhood'. (I don't see many contented bin men in my area)

Be Human. Now that's much more interesting. Here's what Patrick Lencioni says ...

"Take an interest in what is going on in their lives and find out what their dreams and passions are, both professionally and personally. The only caveat is that you have to be genuinely interested. If you haven't done this much before and you're afraid that it will feel weird to start now, do it anyway"

.... hmm ... 'genuinely interested in their dreams and passions'. Does the cut-throat economic juggernaut really have time for this kind of touch-feely stuff?

Lencioni goes on to say "it will require a great deal of courage and selflessness on the part of a manager who will at times feel disengenuous, embarassed or incompetent".

Why have I brought this up?

..... because ..... having witnessed the tepid response David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) got from the Conversative faithfuls on his BIG SOCIETY idea .... I think 'Be Human' is why most leaders are not leaders and simply just managers.

BIG SOCIETY is about being a responsible citizen and contributing towards a better, fairer and more compassionate community. People cared less about that than David Cameron's words about the Conversatives will be in power for more than one term (that got rowsing applauses).

The press says people don't get BIG SOCIETY ... I say they are wrong. People get BIG SOCIETY, they just don't get what it means to be human.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are you inspiring people to turn their aspirations into reality?

My definition of leadership:

Leadership is the art of inspiring people to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.

My definition of management:

Management is the practice of making it easy for people to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.

All human beings have aspirations. The major reasons leadership and management are essential is that most of us require inspiration and ease to turn our aspirations into reality!

Who will you inspire today? And how will you make it easy for those you inspire to turn their aspirations into reality.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Monday, October 4, 2010

From Cafes to Castles: creating intercultural learning hubs

Creating hubs for intercultural learning - vision: 2-minute video

In my previous post I talked about intercultural leadership and its significance as an aspect of the leadership learning that is required for the 21st century. My intention is to develop intercultural learning hubs across Europe and beyond. I explain why here - click to read my story.

In this two-minute video I outline my vision. I invite you to watch it. If it chimes with you and you are interested in collaborating with me to develop this venture do get in touch:

Click on the arrow to activate the video, enable audio and enjoy!

Sara Knowles - Connect Create
3 October 2010

What is intercultural leadership and why should I care about it?

In this article I explore the concept of intercultural leadership at a basic level and invite you to consider what it means to you and your success in living in an interconnected world.

I will be talking about intercultural leadership and my vision for the development of intercultural learning hubs across Europe in more detail in a free webinar on 10 October 2010 – sign up here.

Navigating the deep sea

What is intercultural leadership?

Intercultural leadership combines the art of developing deep self awareness and emotional intelligence and the science of collaboration. It is an aspect of leadership which is critical to success in working in a globally interconnected world.

Much has been written about intercultural competence and models of cultural styles defined by patterns of behaviour. These are interesting on one level – in terms of identifying patterns of behaviour and cultural ‘norms’ - and can offer insight into factors to consider when working in culturally diverse contexts. I wrote about this in an earlier post with regard to the influence of culture on learning. Invariably, however, the conclusion is that there is no map for navigating a culturally diverse, globally interconnected world.

The essence of intercultural leadership (which is congruent with self-leadership as the key to leading others) requires exploration of the deep sea of human emotion and intuition. It involves the development of:

  • understanding yourself within your culture and in relation to people from diverse cultures

  • developing awareness of others’ views and cultures (in the context of the above) to create habits of mutual understanding and respect

  • exploring histories - the impact of historical events and mythology on the present and future

  • being aware of change in mental models and world views and the implications of this for interconnectedness.

Following the stars (that ancient navigation system)

Why should we care about developing our intercultural leadership skills?

Navigating the volatile seas of our new world, the maelstrom of unprecedented geopolitical, economic and ecological demise, requires a new approach to leadership. The new way acknowledges the need for collaboration and mutual appreciation and is based on revival of an ancient system of navigating the world: developing and nurturing intuition or emotional intelligence, imagination, curiosity and co-operation. All of these are fundamental to developing intercultural leadership awareness. In short, building effective co-operation, be it at an international, national, community or other micro-level, requires insight into the commonalities of humanity and and sensitivity to differences.

Apart from being intriguing, developing intercultural understanding fuels passion for change. It enables us to explore our interconnectedness and helps us to appreciate that our similarities and differences create our histories, who we are now and ultimately our futures. Understanding our connected histories and futures is a step towards growing ourselves and ultimately those we lead and connect with.

Riding the waves of an interconnected world

How can developing my intercultural cultural learning and leadership skills help me? How can it influence success in navigating an interconnected world

Intercultural learning and leadership development can help you to:

  • connect more effectively with a wider group of people by building on commonalities and shared interests and concerns, while being sensitive to different perspectives and complex histories

  • build and develop networks of mutually beneficial relationships for transformation and innovation that leverage diverse insights and tacit knowledge towards creating solutions to the social, economic and ecological challenges we face

  • create a more harmonious working and personal environment in which creativity thrives and innovation abounds

  • and, ultimately, contribute to positive global transformation.

Rowing towards the shore

So, what can be done to create a tipping point for intercultural leadership development?

I believe that bringing together the arts (creative expression in all is forms), science (the pursuit of truth in the world and beyond), education (leadership from ministerial to school level) and business (leaders, thinkers and business schools) will be an important way of achieving this. At the confluence of these pervasive aspects of our lives there is unprecedented potential for generative learning that enables us to develop intercultural insight, awareness and competence. This is more than appreciating other cultures and points of view. It's about creating spaces where learning takes place and connections are forged. From these hubs grow communities that work together to support each other. These spaces enable intergenerational and interdisciplinary learning. The content of these spaces - the programmes, resources, events and ideas shared - trigger collaboration.

Transformation occurs where the pools of intercultural learning intersect:

Mutual appreciation of commonalities and differences in cultures
Mutual understanding of the factors that influence cultural diversity
Collaboration - sharing and working together to develop knowledge and resources, drawing upon diverse views and experiences
Learning - assimiliating all of the above and applying it to work-life scenarios to bring about change
Transformation - at the confluence of these four pools: new solutions to challenges and problems, new products and services, more harmonious relations.

I will be talking about intercultural leadership and my vision for the development of intercultural learning hubs across Europe in more detail in a free webinar on 10 October 2010 – sign up here.

Comments on this subject are invited below.

How can I develop my intercultural leadership skills?

In my next post on this subject I will give you some simple ideas of things you can do to develop your intercultural leadership.

Sara Knowles - Connect Create
30 September 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

attention bias

We are much more likely to spot something if our attention is drawn to it. There are two forms of attention bias:

* internal
* extrenal

internal attention bias

When we have a particular focus on something we tend to pay too much attention to it and this seriously skews the way we interpret and make decisions on data. For example if we buy a new car we tend to overly notice other cars with the same colour or which are the same make or model or even number plates that seem to be similar to ours. One urban myth which is caused by our internal attention bias is when an ‘infertile’ couple adopt a child. There is a totally incorrect myth that they are then much more likely to conceive themselves. There is absolutely no statistical evidence for this, it only appears that way because we will notice the fact they they conceive and put more weight on it. The fact that some ‘infertile’ couples conceive without adopting and some ‘infertile’ couples adopt and never have children of their own escapes our attention.

This example of infertile couples also happens because of:

external attention bias

In this case the news media is much more likely to bring such a story to our attention because it is ‘newsworthy’ and so our attention is drawn to it by external sources. Other external sources include our friends and other people who we know. The attention bias is compounded in these cases because other people have their own internal and external attention biases.

combating attention bias

To remove or at least decrease attention bias we can try to spot our own attention biases. We can do this by noticing when we are looking for specific things (e.g. cars with the same colour as ours) and once we realise this we can decide to look for more balanced data.

Another way of deceasing attention bias is to choose multiple focuses for our attention. For example in our car example we could look for all red cars, then all green cars etc. This will help to balance our attention biases and assist with the correct interpretation of the data on which we base our decisions.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Will you become part of a movement and end starvation as a major cause of death for children?

Four years ago I was privileged to speak to members of the board of Oxfam Trading Australia. While waiting in their boardroom I copied down the words of a poster on the wall by Community Aid Abroad. It was headed ʻBasic human rights for all' and was created long before the concept of corporate social responsibility had gained any momentum. It read:

enough to eat

clean water

a livelihood

a home

an education

health care

a safe environment

protection from violence

equality of opportunity

a say in the future

Tears welled in my eyes as I read these words for they capture what I stand for and explain why I got up this morning and every morning and go out into the world to influence leaders in whatever you do to be doing it for the good of people.

That day in the Oxfam Trading Boardroom a seed was planted in my heart and mind that grew to become differencemakers community. Today we are approaching 500 members from 32 countries.

A key philosophy of differencemakers community and my personal passion is enlightened self-interest. Or simply put - doing well by doing good.

Recently I have joined with some differencemakers members to ensure one basic human right, enough to eat, is possible for all.

Today, like everyday, more than 16000 children around the world will die of starvation. That's 6 million children a year!

This is entirely preventable and yet despite billions of dollars and a lot of talk this problem remains unsolved.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others like them are taking amazing actions to end many of the worlds biggest problems.

Most of us are not in a position to do what Bill and Melinda and people like them do. At least until now we weren't.

Some of my differencemakers friends and I have joined a movement which in the last two and a half years since it began has already provided 2.6 million meals to starving children; 1.6 million just in the last 8 months! Considering this vertical curve we have a 'big hairy audacious goal' to increase this to 500 million meals a year in the next 7-10 years.

Will you join us?

Please watch this 6 minute video, and get in touch with me.

This is urgent.

While you were reading this 11 children died simply because they did not have enough to eat.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit