The 7 Habits of Seriously Effective Communication Pros

Sometimes clients don’t fully understand, make full use of or give credit to the value added by communications pros. Yet, these individuals work under intense time or performance pressure, a reason why their positions are ranked as among the most stressful jobs. This work can be a balancing act, weighing big-picture and micro decisions, orchestrating operations across teams of many roles and levels.

Yet communications work can be very satisfying. As I’ve watched communications pros at work over the years, I’ve noticed that something more among the real greats. For them, it’s more than a transactional business.

There’s a deeper way that these people learn and connect.

They have a real curiosity about life, which results in their leaving a real impact even on the days when the going gets tough. In thinking about the qualities of seriously effective communications people who’ve inspired me, here are a few key points below:

1. Studying people.

Everything in the communications field hinges on understanding how people think and work.

I’ve noticed that the best communications pros are able to “get under the skin” of their target audiences and really relate to their story, their needs. How do they make decisions? What are their aspirations, pains, unrequited goals?

Look at a target audience. Think about the work of these individuals, their day-to-day hopes and frustrations, the things they wish for while driving to work and what they try to make sense of as they drive home.

With closed eyes, imagine being the audience. Or speak to some members of the ideal audience. Ask lots of questions and really learn from their answers. Become a student of people and build an understanding that leads to having a real communications impact.

2. Understanding stories.

Crafting stories is an art form for top communicators. So often people forget that what seems like a whole book is actually just a chapter, part of a longer-term vision being built. Good authors often have the gift of seeing chapters as whole stories, making them complete while knowing they’re only part of a larger arc.

Understanding how stories work — and how the human mind responds to them — is the craftt of top communications professionals. Looking for classic heroes, villains, victims and other archetypes, to the structure of timeless human drama and narrative structure will allow for seeing the world — and work — in new ways.

3. Mastering the counterpoint.

I’ve often heard people praise excellent communications partners by saying, “She helps me see the big picture” or “He gets me out of my comfort zone.”  A strong devil’s advocate can push others into deeper understanding and prepare them to address unexpected alternatives to the way they see things.

This takes finesse: The idea is to help broaden and strengthen a point of view and not necessarily to change it.

Practice thought tennis. Be the person who makes other people smarter by helping them sharpen their thoughts and expand their view.

Come up with questions (“What would your competition say?” or “What if that never happened?”) that artfully guide people out of their comfort zone. This will elevate the potential impact.

4. Zooming out. Zooming in.

Communications professionals who can immerse themselves in the bigger picture see a whole different view than those on the ground — and that’s a huge value when it comes to mapping the right path.

Be the thought partner who can go way up to the drone’s eye view. Look at a situation as part of a bigger picture than someone close to it normally would, mapping it out to a bigger landscape. It’s hard to zoom out while being right in the thick of a situation.

5. Geeking out.

Those who skim the surface don’t do enough to excel.

In helping people grasp something, be curious enough to understand it. Yes, it takes work to really understand, but do that by researching or always asking questions, digging deeper, learning more. Collect the dots that ultimately allow for connecting them (the more dots, the more connections). And that’s key to excellence in communications.

6. Venturing out.

Communications isn’t a desk job. Communications pros spend a lot of time on the phone and keyboards. But at the end of the day that’s not where it really happens. Being relevant, connecting with others, developing a sense of what’s really happening — all of that happens best when someone is out in the real world.

Yes, it can be hard to break free, especially in client-driven work. But the best communications people I’ve known have taken lessons from sports, art and the outdoors and inspiring leaders. They try new things, ask new questions and always keep expanding their comfort zone. I like how Steve Jobs talked about it, somewhat irreverently.

7. Earning trust.

Communications pros earn trust when they’re informed (studying people, geeking out, getting out), have a ready tool kit of knowledge and experience (understanding stories, zooming out), have the courage to be honest (mastering the counterpoint) and embody the integrity.

Develop these skills and rise as that go-to person who truly creates an impact at work — and it’s possible to gain a lot of satisfaction to boot.



These 10 Peter Drucker Quotes May Change Your World

My first college business professor was a fanatical Peter Drucker devotee.

He launched our course with a dissection of Drucker’s The Effective Executive and concluded with a thorough reading of The Practice of Management.

Through my professor’s tireless evangelism, I developed a keen appetite for the timeless wisdom of this prescient thought leader.

Young entrepreneurs unfamiliar with Drucker would do well to study his insightful commentary on the world of “management.” Millennials mired inside a traditional corporate environment and people living life inside lean startups will find his thinking particularly spot on.

Even after all these years, 10 Peter Drucker quotes still bounce around in my head constantly:

1. “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”

2. “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

3. “There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.”

4. “What gets measured gets improved.”

5. “Results are gained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems.”

6. “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”

7. “People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

8. “Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One cannot do both at the same time.”

9. “Long-range planning does not deal with the future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.”

10. “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things”

My cynical side (and my short attention span!) feels especially drawn to number eight on that list.

But the quotes that really excite and ignite my entrepreneurial imagination are numbers two and five.

Which quote resonates most deeply with you? Most importantly, which of Drucker’s words will change your world?



5 Frugal Millionaires and Their Best Advice

The wealthy who flaunt it, who are the Joneses, are the only rich people you see. There’s a bigger camp of frugal millionaires who shy away from the limelight and often are richer than the ones you see splashed over tabloid covers. The frugal millionaires are the ones you want to learn from, starting with some of their most sage advice.

1. Gilbert Gottfried, actor and comedian

One of the few famous folks who are equally famous for frugality, Gottfried highlighted his tendencies when he and his wife were featured on Wife Swap. When he said, “If someone else is paying for it, food just tastes a lot better,” he was dead serious. From taking public transportation on dates to refusing to ever host parties because they are costly and people come just for the food, some of his moves are extreme but there’s no denying that he’s hung onto his wealth.

2. Shailene Woodley, actress

Woodley has made some headlines for her frugal ways, such as refusing to buy any new clothes except for red-carpet appearances (and those are often donated by designers). Her “I exclusively buy used clothes,” quote had every teen girl heading to Goodwill. A proud thriftier who prefers to enjoy her fame and wealth under the radar, she proves it’s possible to be a trending actor without driving a Bentley. She’s helping to make frugal cool for younger generations.

3. Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby

He sold his company for millions, but Sivers never let getting rich change his healthy money habits. “I’ve always been very debt-averse. I don’t like being in debt at all, even on the small level. I never bought anything with a credit card unless I had that much money in the bank. The credit card was just a convenience. I never went into negative debt on a credit card, even as a teenager, because I just hated that feeling. They say that there are two ways to be rich: One is getting more money, and the other one is lowering your expectations, lowering your needs.”

4. Dan Nainan, comedian

Nainan said it best when he talked about overspending’s simply not making sense, no matter how much money you have. “Figure out how you can save money. Don’t spend as much. Don’t go to Best Buy–get it off eBay because sometimes it’s a 10th of the cost of retail. Go to Craigslist. I use Craigslist and eBay a lot. You can save a tremendous amount of money because people buy stuff and they don’t need it anymore, and it’s cheaper than buying retail. You’re not only saving money, but you’re also buying something from someone so they’re not throwing it out. That’s helping the environment a lot. I mean, there are countless ways you can save a lot of money and not consume a lot. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

5. Matthew Tuttle, founder of Tuttle Wealth Management

Budgets seem too constricting to you? According to Tuttle, all that really matters is that you’re at least saving something. “I’m not a big fan of budgets. I’m not a big fan of trying to impose that discipline on someone who just can’t do it. I also find a lot of times spouses vehemently disagree when it comes to budgeting. What I am much more a fan of is, save as much as you can and if you’re saving as much as you can, as long as you’re not going into debt, then I don’t necessarily care where you’re spending your money.”

Being frugal is a crucial part of building and sustaining wealth. What good does a million do if you’re filing for bankruptcy a year later? Get it, save it, and make it work for you.


7 min read 9 Things Successful People Won’t Do

My last post, How Successful People Stay Calm, really struck a nerve (it’s already approaching 1.5 million reads here on LinkedIn). The trick is that managing your emotions is as much about what you won’t do as it is about what you will do.

TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the upper echelons of top performance are filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90% of top performers, to be exact). So, I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in order to keep themselves calm, content, and in control. They consciously avoid these behaviors because they are tempting and easy to fall into if one isn’t careful.

While the list that follows isn’t exhaustive, it presents nine key things that you can avoid in order to increase your emotional intelligence and performance.

1. They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

2. They Won’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Emotionally intelligent people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

3. They Won’t Die in the Fight

Emotionally intelligent people know how important it is to live to fight another day. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

4. They Won’t Prioritize Perfection

Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.

5. They Won’t Live in the Past

Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.

6. They Won’t Dwell on Problems

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

7. They Won’t Hang Around Negative People

Complainers are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix a problem. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

8. They Won’t Hold Grudges

The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event involved sends your body into fight-or-flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Learning to let go of a grudge will not only make you feel better now but can also improve your health.

9. They Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To

Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. “No” is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, emotionally intelligent people avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.


Steve Jobs’s 3 Most Surprising Secrets to Success

In the final minutes before Apple’s press conference, my thoughts drifted to what Steve Jobs would have thought about his legacy. I envied him in high school as one of the few guys for whom the creative die seemed to be cast as a teenager. His swagger throughout life and his approach to leadership never seemed to change–until the years just before his death.

Steve never lost that sparkle in his eye or that ever-present flow of ideas, even in his last moments. But in the final weeks before his passing, he shared three things that shocked me–not so much because he admitted them, but because the first one was something he’d embraced only fairly recently, while the other two were lifelong values.

1. “Ditch your ego completely at least once each day.”

Dump judging others as well as the self-criticism. Be open to hear what you need to change on the long, winding road to building your dream. This is something that Jobs acknowledged was a real challenge for him. (Perhaps it would be for any of us!) It’s a bit of a paradox of ambition plus humility. You need a lot of hubris to believe your ideas can be the best in the world, but you also risk losing your edge and falling behind unless you’re an obsessive listener. You have to soak up the brilliance of the people and customers you’ve worked so hard to recruit.

2. “Be unapologetically ambitious about your passion.”

This was Steve’s (and is most leaders’) blessing and curse. Your obsession to live your passion against all odds is one of the greatest of all assets, but arrogance is also your biggest weakness. Steve lamented that he led Apple to an unnecessarily high rate of lost talent, as well as ideas that he’d attracted but ignored–particularly back when his career and Apple hit the skids in the ’90s.

3. “Be grateful to others for what they contribute, but don’t do it for validation.”

Remember, there are plenty of loving critics and critical lovers who will unintentionally (and intentionally!) sabotage your ambitions because they care for you or they’d like to see you fail. If your venture is meant to impress someone, you’re setting yourself up for endless confusion.

The advice of a dying man, particularly this guru, is hard to ignore: “Don’t give yourself to anything unless you’re clear that it really matters.”


5 Twitter Tricks to Boost Engagement

5 Twitter Tricks to Boost Engagement

1. Be interesting. Developing an effective Twitter presence is all about knowing your audience and executing a well-crafted strategy. Your followers will naturally stay interested if you publish content that they find intriguing and compelling. Tweeting images, videos, and links are proven to be more engaging. By sharing relevant content, your business is already on its way to building an interactive audience.

2. Tweet when they tweet. it’s important to know when your audience is online. The best time to tweet will differ depending on your brand and targeted audience. There are various tools, some of which are free, that can suggest the best times to publish tweets to reach the largest audience. Try posting messages throughout the day and review Twitter analytics regularly. Twitter just recently extended its analytics platform to all users. Previously only available to advertisers, your detailed report can be accessed for free at Examine the impressions and engagement rate of different content to determine what is most popular then adjust your strategy to maximize results.

3. Build community. The sense of community within social media is a great advantage for brands. Engagement is amplified by joining existing discussions within various groups, often by using popular hashtags. These expand your message’s reach to a broader audience that is already interested in similar content. Take a look at what hashtags are trending at that time and connect it to your brand to engage in the conversations or start your own.

4. Talk with, not at. No matter the platform, communication with your audience should be a two-way street. Take the time to acknowledge or respond to all of the mentions that you receive. Twitter users are more likely to engage with and promote brands that they know are responsive and friendly. Add a personal touch to conversations on Twitter and followers will be more comfortable reaching out.

5. Spark discussion. Some audiences are quieter than others, thus it’s possible that your audience requires a more direct approach. If your followers are not taking the initiative to engage with you, start a conversation of your own by posing a question to your audience.  Invite feedback from your followers and include a call to action in your tweets. After all, these conversations show that your brand is receptive to two-way communication, which is what social media is all about.


On-Demand Home Services Startup Handybook Hires Amazon Exec Jeff Pedersen To Be Its CFO

Customers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of booking services on the web and on their phones, so companies like Handybook are taking off. It’s for that reason that the on-demand home services startup has decided to hire former Amazon exec Jeff Pedersen as its new CFO.

It probably seems early for a startup like Handybook to add a CFO with such extensive experience. After all, it’s just two years old and is nowhere near going public. But the company was scaling quickly and CEO Oisin Hanrahan believed it could benefit from having someone to handle its finances.

“We really needed to add some talent in terms of financial operations for the business,” Hanrahan said in a phone interview. “The business has scaled pretty significantly. It’s 10 times bigger than it was on the first day of the year. We’re processing millions of dollars a month and we felt it was time to add some serious horsepower to the team.”

The CFO appointment comes just a few months after Handybook raised a big $30 million round of funding led by Steve Case’s Revolution Growth. Altogether it has raised about $45 million, with other investors that include General Catalyst, Highland Capital, David Tisch, and Bullhorn CEO Art Papas, among others.

With that funding and its new CFO, Handybook will be looking to expand beyond its current base of 27 markets, including increasingly moving into new overseas markets.

Admittedly, Hanrahan says that Handybook is “hiring ahead of the curve,” but believes the hire will help the company pull ahead in an increasingly competitive market. Rival Homejoy recently started encroaching on Handybook’s turf by not just offering cleaning services, but also launching a series of handyman-type services.

Pedersen held a variety of roles while at Amazon, but he served most recently as the company’s head of hardline finance. In that role, he oversaw financial operations for a $30 billion chunk of Amazon’s overall sales. He also held various operational finance roles at Dell and IBM.

According to Hanrahan, it was that combination of operational and financial expertise which attracted Handybook in pursuing Pedersen. And it’s his experience handling high transaction-volume businesses that ultimately led the company to hire him.

“It’s one thing to have a finance background, and it’s another thing to have operational finance background,” Hanrahan told me. “You really want your CFO to be operationally excellent, and Jeff comes with a deep operational finance background at Dell, at IBM, and at Amazon.”

For Pedersen, the decision to join a startup after working in major public companies will be a change. But he also sees promise in the two-year-old startup. In an email to TechCrunch, he wrote:

“I am thrilled to join the Handybook team. As the leader in on-demand home services, Handybook is a great example of a company transforming a traditional industry through the use of technology… In so many ways, the ambitions of Handybook remind me of Amazon’s own beginnings and I look forward to assisting the brand that has emerged as the leader in this space as they grow and scale.”

-Courtesy: Techcrunch


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