Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Walk the Talk excellence exhibited on Nov. 12th

The Nov. 12th Walk the Talk event was filled with inspired thinking for employers and new ways of looking at employees and how we engage and enable creativity and innovation-- not just the 'day job'. Employers are looking at new ways to employ and new ways to access talent in a collaborative and open global workplace. Wednesday's Thinking Beyond the 'CUBE' event speakers shared case studies and new ways to make to make this happen. Check out video below that features two of our expert speakers; Stephen Benson, CEO of Innovation Exchange and Chris Carder, President and Co-Founder, ThinData.

And congratulations to our three awarded Walk the Talk companies annouced last Wednesday! The three 2008 Walk the Talk Awards go to:

Sequel Naturals, Port Coquitlam, B.C. Most Open Walk the Talk 2008 Awardee
I Love Rewards, Toronto, ON, Most Inclusive Walk the Talk 2008 Awardee
Speakers Spotlight, Toronto, ON, Most Supportive Walk the Talk 2008 Awardee

Stay tuned for our full 2008 Walk the Talk best people practices report to be released in December 2008 on http://www.walkthetalkers.com/

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Master of our own brands? Maybe not quite yet.

Social media DIY unearths some pretty exciting opportunities for individuals to express themselves and shape their online profiles and reputations. Not only can we have an online profile, we can present different versions of that profile to different audiences based on the community where it lives. We can communicate in code, in full sentences and in published written works. We can bring our personality to life with audio, video clips and music. We have so many options now that building and managing the online profile can be a full time job.

Perhaps the key distinction is where this brand originates. To have a personal brand pre-supposes that there is some thought that went into the original brand platform. Be sure the your personal brand strategy resides and starts with you. You have the opportunity to steer this as you go but once launched, that digital thumbprint lives on and will be shaped by the communities that you engage with and the ongoing dialogue and storylines that define you.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Marketing Yourself Smarter. The A, B, C's

If there was any doubt that marketing yourself was important, the recent American presidential race has brought style and substance into the spotlight like never before. Marketing yourself has long taken a bad rap. Perception being those who marketed clearly needed the help or were shameless self promoters. And... we certainly didn’t talk about it. Well, not so. Marketing and emphasizing your unique, sellable attributes is an important part of your strategy and just makes good business sense. And, if you have a particular area of weakness, you can draw on your marketing package to emphasize your strengths. Take Sarah Palin for example. What Sarah lacks on the substance side, she makes up in the down-home personality and approachability in her overall look and delivery. Mind you, we don’t all buy it. But that’s another story.

So, what does marketing yourself entail? Part one: your package, Part two: your approach to ‘market’. The rest is out of your hands. So, for today let’s focus on part one. Your package involves many things. Your unique message, your communication style, your relational style, your personality, your physical presentation (overall look, trademark style?) and then focus, consistency and repeatability to enforce and reinforce your message.

We could all benefit from a little packaging. Take a minute and start thinking about each of these points and whether you can describe each one as it applies to you. For the ones that you are struggling with, spend some time thinking about what your unique selling opportunities are given your strengths. And remember, whether you are an employee working your way up the corporate ladder, an entrepreneur, author or politician, marketing yourself will give you the stand out platform necessary to accelerate your career goals.

Stay tuned for part two: your approach to market.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Social currency and saying thank you.

Social currency is what we have to offer as individuals and business professionals-- extending your relationships on behalf of your colleagues to help them accomplish their goals. Building relationships with new people and sharing learning, resources and experiences.

Exchanging value. Creating value.
It’s what we have to give.

So when you extend your network to someone else it is then in their hands to carefully handle and nurture those contacts. Here’s the catch. As you start building on those relationships and share and exchange value—don’t forget to acknowledge and thank the connector. This is one of the most commonly make mistakes in networking and relationship building today. Social currency is what we have to give. It is a currency and has value. When you benefit from that currency, be sure to recognize the source and at some point down the line…. match the value.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Are top women slipping through the cracks?

I was forwarded an article from BBC News today called, Women 'lose out' in top jobs race which highlights the decline of women in top positions across UK organizations. Gender inequality in the workplace is not a groundbreaking idea, but the fact we are losing women in these positions is. I mean, I thought companies were we making positive changes to help women achieve their career goals. So what has been the impetus behind the sliding female executive numbers?

According to the EHRC (the Equality and Human Rights Commission) annual study, “it blames Britain’s business culture of long working days and inflexible working practices for discouraging women who want to both work and raise a family.” This has always been an issue with women so why would it cause a shift in the workplace now? Also if this decline has occurred in Britain, are we to expect a similar trend in North America?

I often hear in the news about women US CEOs like Patricia Russo from Alcatel-Lucent who are ousted out of their positions, or others being shifted from one company to the next. Between Britain and North America, women are getting to the top but it seems to be a struggle to stay there.

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Sarah Palin. A pitbull with lipstick.

Party bias aside, there is no questioning Sarah Palin's charm and effectiveness as a speaker and public servant. How wonderfully to see Sarah combine the best of feminine charm and scrappy, calculated communication effectiveness to pull off what was undoubtedly a career making speech. Not to suggest she didn't have one before!

I will eagerly follow Sarah Palin, the self-described pitbull with lipstick, to watch how America responds to her Hockey mom, broad based warmth and appeal while combining obvious skill in persuasiveness and conviction. I am interested to see whether these translate in the upcoming, unscripted V.P. debate. I am glad to see now that her male opponents will not tread carefully because she is a woman. She is no shrinking violet and like all women, should not be treated with kid gloves. As a woman, I wouldn't vote for her (because I am neither Republican nor American) but I certainly support her and now add her to the list of strong women to follow.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Do women vote for women... period?

John McCain is potentially committing political suicide with his VP pick in Sarah Palin. Or is he? McCain and his campaign advisors clearly feel that by putting a female -- any female-- on the ticket, he may bridge the gap and win over some disgruntled Clinton voters.While Sarah is clearly charming and confident and may appeal to the conservative base with her strong pro-life position, she is no Hillary Clinton. In fact, Sarah and Hillary could not be further apart in their bios (or lack thereof in Palin's case).

While most of us women are thrilled to see a woman on the ticket in this election the presumption that Clinton voters will just 'come on over based on gender is mildly insulting. This clear misunderstanding on the part of political advisors to get in the minds of women is not uncommon. Women are not simply advocating women in positions of authority but more importantly getting the right person in the position to get the right job done. This means voting on the issues and by party ideology first, gender second.

Having said all that, in this case, I could be entirely wrong. Who will win this race is anyone's guess. Perhaps Palin will move the needle. Maybe women are so disgruntled that they will take this platform to make a point with their vote. One thing is for sure, I now have a reason to tune into the Republican convention.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More than just talk: We are all looking for responsible companies

This is an extension of an earlier post on April 24th which highlights the diversified packages and benefits now available to employees. These changes have been driven primarily by Generation Y, who is looking at more than just salaries when they are trying to land a job. Many candidates are looking at company’s that feature volunteer programs.

The other day I came across a featured article in the New York Times that talked about that very subject. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, IBM and Merrill Lynch are featured in the article as companies that walk the talk when it comes to employee engagement. In a world where you have to attract the best talent and retain them, you have to offer the best overall package which is more than just a comfortable salary . It’s the workplace, the intent and culture that matters.

For Canadians interested in starting an employee-supported volunteer program at their company go to www.volunteertoronto.com or www.volunteer.ca.

Does your company offer one or more of these great benefits? Are they a place where everyone wants work? Now is your chance to nominate them for a Walk the Talk Top Employer Award.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

New employment models raise fear in employers

Resistant to change? Well, we had better get comfortable with it if we want to find the best talent out there. Full time employment isn't always the drawing card for Gen Y and employers need to shift their thinking from away from a 'property' orientation to a talent orientation. If we want to find, stimulate and nurture creativity, innovation and frankly, happiness in employees, giving them a job is not always the way to do it. So how do you outsource creativity? Business school taught us that you insource your core business and outsource the rest. What we didn't take into account back then is that by insourcing our core we might not be able to attract the best people to get the job done on our terms. So, as uncomfortable as it may make us as employers, we need to explore different employment models where we can get the best work from the best people, protect our ideas and IP and do it through more outsourced or contracted relationships. Many flexible employment companies are cropping up in response to this demand. And, there is one particularly progressive organization, The Innovation Exchange, that has created a platform for outsourced innovation which is catching hold around the world and utilized by blue chip companies and talent alike. Worth checking out.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All great Canadian employers take note

The walk the talk employee survey is now open and if you have a great story to tell be sure to encourage your employees to take it. The employment landscape is changing and the employee voice is strong. We all know what it takes to find and keep great people and it starts with walking the talk.

And hey, if you aren't as confident with your employer 'rating' but want to get tapped in, this is the place to start.

Visit www.walkthetalkers.com to take the survey, see employee videos and get details on our interactive career event scheduled for Nov. 12th. You don't want to miss it!

Survey is open until September 22nd.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

102.1 - who's listening?

Every morning on the way to work I listen to the Dean Blundell radio show on 102.1 the edge. It is a male dominated morning show that prides itself on being raunchy, disgusting and chauvinistic. It’s mostly harmless and it can be quite funny. Today, they introduced a new female intern onto the show and in their usual banter of inappropriate questions they ran down a list of similarly inappropriate tasks that would be included in their duties, most of which included breaking wind in each other’s offices. This was all well and good until I found out that the intern is a 22 year old girl. As a female listener, I take all of their nonsense with a grain of salt, but something inside of me wonders what will happen when you throw a young girl into the mix. What role will she play? Would she be relentlessly harassed because she was good-looking, young and new to the workplace or is she there to be “one of the boys”? Clearly sensationalism sells listenership. And, freedom of speech.... yes, I get it. Hey, I’m listening! But what accountability does 102.1 have to upholding fair, non-discriminatory workplace and broadcasting practices (and frankly common sense) as it relates to gender. And, through the popularization of misogyny with their dominantly male audience, does this not just serve to build the back room alpha boy banter?

So, I challenge the folks at 102.1 to take our Walk the Talk employee survey launching July 7th at www.marketyourselfsmarter.com . Or, send us a note and tell us where you stand on this.

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The Alpha female-- don't look to the Alpha male!

We were recently at a friend’s home for a dinner party and shortly after arriving, their Scottie dog ‘Jacques’ came right over to me and sat at my feet. My girlfriend (the dog’s owner) looked over at me and said, my dog always knows who the Alpha female is in the room.
I laughed and took it as a compliment. Strong, independent, decisive, a leader--- these would be the qualities of an Alpha male, wouldn’t they? Then naturally, I would be all of those things in a female body. Funny in this context but how does this apply in everyday life? Or, in the boardroom?

In male business communities, Alpha males congregate and celebrate their common strengths and superstar characteristics. They join the YPO, they play golf together, they have each others’ back. As an Alpha female there is no such community. While we have many women’s associations and clubs, women are still very uncomfortable sharing their success. And why is this? 1) we were not socialized to self promote and 2) when we do, it usually isn’t genuinely received and celebrated by our female peers. So where do Alpha women toot their horns? When a strong, powerful, trailblazing woman like Hilary Clinton—the quintessential Alpha female --is still scrutinized based on what she is wearing and characterized as too aggressive, the double standard remains clear.

When you hear Alpha female, who do you think of and does it conjure up a positive impression?

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Monday, June 09, 2008

The Results-Only Work Environment: Do Whatever You Want, Whenever You Want ?

I've joked with friends a lot lately about how strange it is that we moved through a school system that trained us to be increasingly independent, given increasingly more freedom to manage ourselves and our learning, only to finish university and find this independence ripped away. Entering the grown-up, 'professional' world, suddenly you're no longer trusted to manage your work or your own time, instead relegated to function in a way you haven't had to since elementary school - your success dependent on conditioning yourself to show up on time, adhere to rules and obey authority figures, rather than producing work worth doing. And you don't even get nap time like the last time this was your reality.

The idea that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want might sound silly at first, even childish (thanks no doubt in part to memories of the "Do what you feel" festival depicted on the Simpsons back in the day when I was in elementary school). But in truth, it's been shown to not only make work suck much less from the employee perspective, but also produce far less sucky work that leads to better results for employers (hence, the name).

Since we are conditioned to follow an industrial model of quantitative rather than qualitative value, you of course need some proof. Two human resources professionals, published a book last week on Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, as part of the quest to provide just that. They first made their ROWE, or results-only work environment, philosophy a reality for the 3,000 employees at Best Buy's corporate headquarters. The shift was so successful that it made the cover of Business Week in 2006.

In a ROWE, the person who attempts to climb their way to the top via contact reports, status reports, time-sheets, and otherwise creating the appearance of working by managing time instead of results, will find themselves falling off the rungs. It isn't about putting in hours but rather, turning out great work.

Successful people in this paradigm will be creative, receptive to changing environments, assumptions and problems, rather than simply doing what they are told. It doesn't make any sense for managers and employers to fear letting people do whatever they want, because really, how many people do you think truly don't want to do anything? There is no better way to build your personal brand than to be focused on the results of what you do, rather than where and at what time you do it. At the end of your career, would you rather say, "I worked this many", or "I accomplished so much"?

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Nina DiSesa, a pragmatic approach to managing up!

After all of the negative talk about the cement ceiling and our lack of progress in penetrating the senior executive ranks in North America I found it particularly refreshing to speak with Nina DiSesa, Chairman of McCann Erickson New York about her rise to the top and how she made it happen.

While some women find her choice of words for the title of her recently launched book Seducing the Boys Club, offensive, I find it refreshing. Although this is a very serious topic, we tend to take ourselves very seriously and Nina reminds us about the whole package--- wit, charm, personality, smarts, confidence, talent-- all of it. It takes all of it to make it to the top. Period.

You've got to be great not only at what you but how you do it. Nina's take is that we have been looking at this all wrong-- because clearly it hasn't been working for us at the pace we would have hoped. So, rather than following 'the rules' that people are putting in front of us, let's figure out some other way to skin the cat! This can-do determination and creative approach might be just what we need to move the needle in the next decade.

Read the article and listen to the interview (25 minutes duration). I am sure you will find it as refreshing as I did.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Find Your Favourites Faster with RSS and Social Aggregators

So you have finally figured out how to build your social networks online and are starting to tap into the ways of the web for research, but do you find it difficult or tiresome to keep track of your social networking accounts and other content feeds? Here are some services that will keep you connected to all of your online favourites quickly and easily.

FriendFeed merges content from your existing social networking accounts into a single feed. Its clean layout and simple functionality allows users to access their bookmarked news articles, recent blog posts, video, and other content from sites such as Digg and YouTube on a single page – perfect for the media junkie on a tight schedule.

A similar service comes from Yahoo! Pipes giving users the ability to manipulate and merge content from multiple RSS feeds into a single feed. Ideal for organizing content from multiple news sources or blogs, Yahoo! Pipes offers a number of interactive features including feed customization, web badges, and geo-coding to display content sources on an interactive map. Go ahead and get organized online.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

User-Generated Content vs. Online Advertising

While companies continue to move their advertising dollars online and away from traditional media, there are growing concerns over User-Generated Content (UGC) and how it can affect the image of their brands. Studying the trends in ad spending on such sites, eMarketer projects modest growth over the next few years; but can online advertising find a sustainable presence on social networking sites originally tailored to connect and create open interactivity between end-users?

As the leading online advertising company, Google has reported better than expected earnings, while News Corp’s stock has been downgraded due to the poor performance of its property, MySpace. This dichotomy can be attributed to many marketers’ reluctance to place their brand alongside unpredictable or questionable content. Interactive technologies and online platforms continue to grow, but can advertisers seamlessly adapt and integrate their messaging at the same rate?

Nielsen Online has recently introduced VideoCensus, an online video measurement service used for demographic research. According to preliminary findings, women are more likely to visit network television websites, while men are drawn to consumer generated media. This method of online consumer measurement may prove especially useful in niche marketing, especially in terms of branded video content or communications directed specifically to women.

One model for the future of communications comes from Casaleggio Associati, which outlines the eventual transformation of the web and its effect on old and (relatively) new media. This hypothetical provides a blueprint for corporate and business communications in the developing digital frontier. Through consolidation, online advertisers may better control the manner in which their message is presented.

If and when technology reaches the point in which online advertising is determined by the end-user, it becomes the responsibility of the marketer to understand how and why the consumer interacts online. This can be seen as a challenge, but the application of emerging technologies may prove to be an important asset for companies looking to reach users.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Companies giving back with employee volunteer programs

I began volunteering my time in high school through different organizations: from theatre troupes to food banks. These days, I just don’t have the time to fit everything in! Volunteering is now lower on my list of priorities. Are there other options? I am sure I am not alone in my quest to continue to give back while achieving work-life balance.

Well, fortunately, employers are now providing opportunities to volunteer on company time.

A Toronto Metro News article features companies who have adopted the practice. Accenture is on board as a “corporate citizen.” One of their programs, Accenture Development Partnerships, allows employees to work on non-profit projects in developing countries, using their skills and talents to help others. General Electric has offered tutoring programs for elementary school students - bringing them to the GE offices to do their homework with volunteers. These are ways that employees can make meaningful contact with their community in an employer-sponsored way. It’s also a great way to learn new skills, give back and move careers forward.

What are the benefits for companies implementing volunteer projects? According to New York Cares, an organization that matches volunteers with non-profits, volunteering improves recruitment, morale and retention, while creating a dynamic and positive working environment.

So if you are interested in volunteering and your company has a program – what are you waiting for? If your company still doesn’t have a program, take that initiative and start walking the talk!

See other companies that are improving the workplace for their employees in the 2007 Walk the Talk Report

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Networking best of....

After reading Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, my favourite 'go-to' book on the art of networking successfully, I was struck by the conscious thoughtful process that was attached to each and every interaction that Keith had described. As one of North America’s pre-eminent relationship builders, Keith was someone I have wanted to meet for some time and was fortunate enough to interview him for our 5 Minutes With feature article in April's Market Yourself Smarter newsletter.

I have always felt that networking is one skill that most business people haven’t mastered (including myself!) and when you read Keith’s book, you will understand why. Keith had many interesting things to share in our interview but the two main take away's for me were:

  • the importance of connecting with transparency and generosity and with the intent of developing 'intimacy' in a relationship
  • looking at building a relationship as a pipeline, where technology is one medium that can be employed to connect

Keith talked about Bill Clinton, someone Keith knows, and his ability to be sincere in ever interaction and make you feel like you are the only person in the room. Hey, if Bill Clinton can do it.... (make the time for it).....

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Friday, March 28, 2008

The ‘personal connection’ in the workplace. Good for employees, great for customers.

Creating a positive working environment can take many forms. In many ways, it is rejuvenating the personal contact that has been lost.

I was impressed to read in a recent Toronto Star article from March 25, 2008 that the Canadian Western Bank CEO, Larry Pollock, has instituted an interesting phone policy. Larry does not have voicemail, nor does any of the bank branches and he answers his own telephone. I found this No Voicemail article on a different site which elaborated on this customer-friendly practice-- "With us, the calls come through to the person you're looking for," said Pollock."Any customer can call me any time they want and complain or whatever. I surprise all kinds of people because they get through to me." It seems to be encouraging better customer service and a greater personal connection to their clients and co-workers.

Similarly, this idea of personal connection in the workplace is translated in an article on sbonline.com, CEO Bobby Yazdani of Saba Software explains that he does not have a corner office – but rather has his desk in the main employee area. He believes that he can better motivate his employees by creating enthusiasm through his availability and transparency on his everyday tasks. He highlights four key points that help to create this transparency at work.

There have been other trends that have been introduced by companies to encourage better communication between its employees.‘Email Free Days’ have been one way employees connect with each other in the real world. On Marketwatch.com, in an article from 2004, Veritas Software president, Jeremy Burton instituted Email Free Fridays at his company of 240 employees. At first they thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. Burton’s goal was to increase the face-to-face time between co-workers, strengthening the relationships within the office which would translate outside the workplace to the clients as well.

Three great “walking the talk” practices. Employers take note!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Expand your profile with Facebook applications

Facebook has made it easy to connect and communicate with almost anyone online, including old friends, local artists, and co-workers. Most of us who have signed up to the site are familiar with the more popular second-party applications available, and have been inundated with requests by friends to join – everything from buying virtual drinks for friends or creating profiles for your pets. After a while, the influx of requests can get a bit overwhelming, if not annoying.

Some applications, however, prove to be quite useful in building your professional profile, showcasing original work and tying together personal profiles from other sites. Do you have a blog, make purchases online, or bookmark your favourite business or news articles? There are specific Facebook applications available to showcase and integrate these elements into your own profile.

Digg, for example, offers an application that automatically updates your bookmark list every time you submit an article to the site. Similar applications, such as the Blog RSS Feed Reader developed by William Web Design, updates feeds from secondary sources, displaying recent posts from a subscribed blog directly on your Facebook profile.

Get Facebook working for you.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Power of "We"

I chatted with Barry Libert, co-author of We Are Smarter Than Me and CEO of Mzinga, about the power of harnessing community and the collective creative thought in the workplace. As we have send, employers are still struggling with how to mobilize community in the workplace as they are uncomfortable letting go of the reins. Barry says that one of the key imperatives for Employers is to let go of control. "The more you give up, the more you get in return." More on this podcast interview.

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