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As you think about your career strategy, how do you see yourself?

Are you bigger than your job, or is your job bigger than you are?

job-bigger-than-you

I had not really considered this career strategy question until the end-of-season speculation about which NFL coaches would be fired immediately after the regular football season’s final weekend. The discussions seemed sad, as if NFL coaches at poor-performing teams could do nothing but sit around and wait to be ushered out the door. In those situations, it seemed clear these coaches’ jobs were bigger than they are.

Tom Coughlin was one striking contrast among departing NFL coaches.

In his final press conference as coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin demonstrated what it looks like when someone is bigger than the job. Coughlin “resigned” after fifteen years with the New York Giants, twelve of them as head coach. He led the team to two Super Bowl wins, and was on the coaching staff for another one.

Rather than playing back what Tom Coughlin had to say, you can read the transcript of his remarks.

I would encourage you, however, to watch the press conference video.

You will get a sense of someone who, while obviously devoting himself to his job, his organization, and his players, definitely realizes his job is not bigger than he is. – Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Something I’m trying to improve is being deliberate about what I agree to do that could end up distracting from what’s important. After consciously pursuing many new avenues the past few years, it is evident some very fundamental business capabilities aren’t receiving the attention they need. I’ve been thinking about what strategic thinking questions could help me stay more focused.

In the midst of that personal reflection, kick ass business person and cycle instructor, Kate Crockett, posted “2016 – The Year of No” on Facebook. Kate’s strategic thinking questions resonated with me, and I asked her for permission to share them here.

I suspect you will find them valuable as well. Here’s Kate!

2016 – The Year of No by Kate Crockett

I challenge you to make 2016 the YEAR OF NO.

Before you agree to anything, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want to do this?

We all need to stop doing things we absolutely do not want to do or things that cause us stress and anxiety just because we feel it’s what others want us to do or it is perceived as the “right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to care for yourself so you can care for others when needed.

Will doing this make me feel satisfied?

kate-crockett

Kate Crockett and her daughter, Olivia

Would the person asking me to do this do the same for me if I asked?

We all need to stop bending over backwards and going out of our way for people who wouldn’t help us even if it weren’t out of their way.

Would you allow a friend to say “Yes” to whatever it is if you knew they didn’t want to do it or it caused them stress or emotional anxiety to do it?

Why would you treat a friend better than you treat yourself?

Is this time well spent?

We all need to learn to set our boundaries with those in our lives so that we aren’t the ones driven to stress and anxiety while the others in our lives skate around us caring very little that they’ve have put us in an inconvenient situation.

All of us are extremely talented, caring, generous, loving and amazing humans who allow those around us to exploit those admirable qualities to their advantage with little care for what it does to us. Spend your time this year on those who support your physical, emotional and mental well-being and lift you up. At the end of the day, it will make us less stressed and happier people for those that really matter to be around. – Kate Crockett

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People frequently complain about how a strategic planning process, whether accidentally or on purpose, is disconnected from employees’ regular duties and priorities. Too often, employees see strategic planning exercises as separate from and unrelated to what they need to do to run a business. With this view, the natural reaction is to avoid the strategic planning process or hope it goes away soon, so someone can return to daily activities full-time and get work done.

What a waste for the employees and the companies using strategic planning exercises in ways that cultivate this experience!

Seeing this phenomenon multiple times in a corporate setting was one motivator for developing the Brainzooming planning approach.

Strategy-session

 4 Ways to Make a Strategic Planning Process Productive

What can you do to make strategic planning more productive before, during, and after? Here are four different approaches The Brainzooming Group employs with clients:

  1. Instead of using complex strategic exercises that aren’t beneficial outside planning, we use strategic thinking questions that fit how people think and work on a daily basis.
  2. Instead of including too few or too many people in strategic planning and not thinking about how to help them participate successfully, we specifically match participant perspectives, expertise, and interests so they can most efficiently and effectively share innovative ideas.
  3. Instead of requiring people complete complex strategic planning templates unrelated to daily business, we use productive interactions to change the strategic planning process from completing complex forms into conversations, events, and experiences people engage in and learn from as they participate.
  4. Instead of delivering a high-level, generalized strategy document, we deliver an implementation toolkit leaders can continue using to develop innovative ideas, tactics, and alternatives to implement the plan.

Long story short, there is no reason a strategic planning process has to be an energy-sucking, disconnected experience.

With The Brainzooming Group approach to strategic planning exercises, your company will have broader engagement, active involvement, and a path to apply the strategic plan and the work that went into creating it as part of your organization’s daily activities!

Contact us to discuss how your next strategic planning process can be energizing, productive, AND improve your business results. – Mike Brown

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

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Leaders need high-impact ways to develop employees that can provide input into strategy and then turn it into results. This Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons leaders can use to boost collaboration, meaningful strategic conversations, and results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

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Is it a good or bad career strategy if you do not have a job description?

And if you have to write one, what are good ideas for creating your own job description?

We tackled both questions recently in working with a nonprofit executive charged with crafting one for a newly expanded role.

Quite honestly, my initial career strategy advice was to avoid a formal job description for as long as possible. My preference was always to get a general understanding of what my boss wanted, but to avoid spelling out all the specifics. If I would have had strictly stated job descriptions, I am not sure I could have morphed my corporate job to be able to lay the groundwork for what became the Brainzooming methodology.

3 Career Strategy Questions for Creating Your Own Job Description

Since this executive was expected to devise a job description, we created a straightforward career strategy-oriented exercise to start. We suggested answering the following three questions:

  • What are ten things you WANT to accomplish in this new position?
  • What are ten things you NEED / HAVE TO accomplish in this new position?
  • What are ten VERBS you want to have associated with your impact in the organization?

Short of starting by developing a personal core purpose or branding statement, we suggested these three career straegy questions to balance aspirational activities and the “what has to get done” stuff that will not be as exciting. The verb question is to identify viable action words (other than “develop”) to incorporate into the job description.

After recording with these thirty ideas, we suggested picking the top three from each list to provide a starting point.

We will incorporate the input into a trial balloon job description that carves out a bigger role while stopping short of wrapping “world domination” into the job description.

We’re Throwing Orange Paint on the Wall

Throwing-Paint-Job-Description

As we often mention, this one is from the Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Lab. We will report the results as the job description comes together. – Mike Brown

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I saw a Forbes click bait story on Facebook about THE thirteen “habits of exceptionally likable people.”

Just to be obstinate, I refused to click the link to discover what the Forbes blog writer had to say about his or her perspective on these life lessons.

13 Characteristics of a Likable Personality

Likable-Personality

Instead, I decided to create my own list based on the likable people I have had the blessing to meet throughout my life. Based on those experiences and life lessons, someone with a likable personality:

  1. Is comfortable with themselves.
  2. Possesses a sense of wonder.
  3. Is interested in many things and does not fixate on narrow topics.
  4. Radiates energy and a positive spirit.
  5. Has an open mind.
  6. Is adept at self-deprecating humor.
  7. Smiles at others.
  8. Instinctively knows when you need him or her to be around.
  9. Is happy to see you.
  10. Tells you nice things about you that you did not even know yourself.
  11. Listens intently.
  12. Laughs readily.
  13. Will go out of his or her way for you without mentioning it later.

That list reflects the characteristics of someone with an exceptionally likable personality in my book.

What does your list look like?

And how many of your most likable characteristics do you display yourself? Maybe THAT is the most important question!  – Mike Brown

 

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We are working with a client to develop a content marketing strategy for multiple business units in the organization. The first step was for our client to talk with the presidents of the various business units to understand their strategic objectives. With that information, we will be in a strong position to identify a content marketing strategy specific to each business unit’s needs.

In Search of Strategic Objectives

One business unit president described his objectives as including employee retention, improving a critical aspect of the brand experience, and addressing a significant cost area. During the discussion, he apologized for not having any strategic objectives. He reported being too focused on near-term issues to have developed any strategic objectives to tackle.

His comment prompted a question from our client about whether something was wrong with the conversation since it did not lead to identifying any strategic objectives for the business unit.

My response was the conversation was incredibly successful and yielded exactly what we were seeking. For each area the president listed, there were natural content marketing opportunities.

Strategic-Objectives

What are Strategic Objectives?

Why didn’t the business unit president realize he had strategic objectives on his list? Why didn’t he see initiatives tied directly to the brand, its people, and significant factors for its financial success as strategic?

My suspicion is the business unit president didn’t think he had strategic objectives because nothing addressed growth, innovation, or things that would only come to fruition years in the future. It seems evident that he operates under a mistaken belief about what is strategic and what is not. He is not alone; many executives labor under that misunderstanding.

3 Helpful Questions

We have covered ways to identify what is strategic using various questions and criteria. This new situation suggested a three-question exercise to identify likely strategic initiatives and objectives. Simply ask these three questions about an opportunity:

  • If we do not pursue it, will its absence be widely noticeable?
  • If we do pursue it, will its impact be widely noticed?
  • If the underlying situation or opportunity is ignored, will it create significant issues?

If you get three “Yes” answers, it is a safe bet you have a strategic issue on your hands. Two “Yes” answers suggest a borderline strategic issue. If you cannot justify even one “Yes” to the three questions, it is likely not a strategic issue.  – Mike Brown

 

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What’s the story on the innovation strategy for beer?

The Kansas City American Marketing Association monthly lunch addressed that question. Former Vice President of Innovation at Anheuser-Busch, Pat McGauley, shared stories of his past twelve years creating the company’s innovation team.

Rather than playback the various innovation strategy stories Pat McGauley shared, here is a sampling of quotes and points he made that stood out as great thought starters:

Not all innovation strategy inside a company is created equal.

Pat’s innovation team was responsible for product and packaging innovation. He reported that packaging innovation was more difficult to develop than liquid innovation. Based on comments he made regarding working with retailers on in-store shelving, product innovation may have been easier because it might lead to a fight for shelf space. Packaging innovation, on the other hand, could require making the case for a different shelf entirely.

Not all innovation teams are created equal.

Pat formed two innovation teams. One focused on near-term innovation strategy and the other on filling the three-to-five-year innovation pipeline. While the two team approach was designed to keep the longer-term team from getting pulled into today’s fires, it presented challenges. The long-term innovation strategy team became too disconnected from current activities shaping the future environment its innovations would face. Both teams, however, were detached from the brand teams to minimize the pull toward shorter-term brand priorities.

Innovation-Strategy-Checkli

“If you have a whole room that thinks the same, you don’t need all those people.”

He was speaking to the choir about the need for diverse participation and varied inputs to trigger ideas. Their global innovation team went to Korea in 2015 to look for inspiration.

How you frame the question shapes the innovation strategy opportunity.

On a market segmentation chart, Pat was making the point that there are multiple ways to grow from innovation. Sometimes it’s grabbing share from competitors in your category. In other situations, it’s grabbing share from substitutes for your category. The chart drew the distinction between these “share of beer” and  “share of throat” opportunities. That’s an intriguing categorization you could apply to many businesses to point innovation opportunities in different directions.

“Sometimes a company needs something that the consumers don’t need.”

In covering a few  innovation failures, Pat talked about Anheuser World Select. As he put it, “Anheuser-Busch needed an import beer, so we created a fake import.” The company had become enamored with trying to solve the problem of not having an import, but consumers had access to import beers. They didn’t need an inauthentic version from Anheuser-Busch.

“Renovation is putting new coats of paint on big brands.”

Pat credited InBev (which merged with Anheuser-Busch in 2008) with introducing the idea of renovation to the organization. The innovation team spent 15% of its time on core brand renovation to enhance competitiveness.

3-Innovation-Strategy-Tiers

A leading company shunning innovation is “like someone hugging a block of ice.”

You can hang on to a block of ice (representing a core capability) and refuse to move away from it, but eventually the block of ice is going to melt and disappear. Pat pointed to Jeff Bezos as a CEO with a contrasting perspective. He is always on the lookout to disrupt Amazon before the next Amazon does it.

Lackluster innovators can catch up quickly.

One chart depicted (I think) growth factors in the beer market from 2012 to 2014. In 2012, competitor innovation accounted for just 5% of growth in the beer market; Anheuser-Busch was the overwhelming leader in innovation-driven growth. By 2014, competitor innovation represented 35% of beer industry growth. – Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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