1

Some people seem to suffer from serial career challenges. Not just nuisance issues or problems related to every business working with fewer people and more to do. No, these career challenges come in the form of never being able to get things done effectively, and being surrounded by team members who don’t apparently seem to cooperate, contribute, or carry their own weight. And typically the same issues follow these individuals from job to job.

If this scenario sounds like someone you know (or even sound like you), it could very well be the person in question simply can’t get out of their own way and allow other talented people to help them achieve success.

sos-Gräfin-photocaseSigns There Are Career Challenges with Letting Talented People Help You

There may be several signs someone has a problem letting talent people among their team provide meaningful assistance. These include:

  • Higher than typical churn among team members and / or staff
  • A personal sense of having too much work to do
  • An ongoing challenge in meeting important objectives
  • Self-frustration with having to handle too many details to be able to get projects completed
  • An inability to effectively involve others in key projects to move them ahead

If a few of these signs are familiar, it’s smart to try (or to impose) corrective actions to fix the ongoing career challenges.

8 Ways to Let Talented People Help You

Here are eight behaviors to address, all of which can let others help a boss or team leader be more effective. If you’re the person looking to improve on your career challenges, focus on:

  1. Pinpointing areas where you have weaknesses and identifying who on your team is stronger and can compensate for your personal weaknesses
  2. Making sure to simply state project objectives without telling / showing others HOW the effort should be accomplished
  3. Making sure you are hitting your own deadlines and not causing undue delay to others by delaying project decisions or natural delegation points
  4. Providing others background on how you make decisions and judge performance to allow them to act without having to constantly check with you or have their work closely supervised
  5. Allowing people who have demonstrated appropriate responsibility and ownership to take on more leadership
  6. Being open to listening to ideas from others and then responding quickly and clearly when your team seeks input
  7. Sharing your input when it’s needed and there is still time to act, but then forever holding your peace
  8. Sticking with the decisions you make so others have the latitude to act on them

These behaviors can lead to those you work with being able to use their own talents and meaningfully contribute instead of being in the frustrating position of order taking and / or being continually second guessed. While improving in these areas requires determination, as one improves, there are tremendous benefits from suddenly finding there ARE people around who are freed up to perform better for all involved. – Mike Brown

 

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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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13

Creative-Thinking-GroupSomeone asked me after a client strategy session how we’d approach working with a group comprised entirely of creative people. The reason for his question was his professional services firm’s principals would all be considered as creatives in the typical sense of the term.

Getting the Best Strategic Creative Thinking from a Creative Group

I told him there were a variety of ways we’d adjust our approach, starting with the group’s composition and extending through how we’d design and conduct the strategic creative thinking session. Seven adjustments we’d make include:

  1. Pushing to increase the group’s diversity by including people who don’t primarily fit in the “creative” category. We’d try to include others within the firm from different functional disciplines, advisers to the firm who represent varied perspectives, and customers or other stakeholders who bring different experiences and backgrounds.
  2. Ensuring we’re introducing data-driven insights to both shape the topics we address and evaluate the output.
  3. Introducing only as much structure as the group needs to make the expected strategic thinking and planning progress.
  4. Using small group exercises more aggressively with frequent rotations among the groups.
  5. Allowing for multiple (and even unplanned) types of expression in sharing ideas (i.e., we’ve had groups create art, develop proposed copy, or write and perform songs).
  6. Carefully monitoring and adjusting the creative thinking session structure based on who plays nicely with others and which parties and pairings produce the strongest work.
  7. Encouraging small groups to push further with developing their ideas so they can pitch concepts as a way to communicate their thinking and prioritize the group’s efforts.

Diversity Counts for More than Exclusive Creativity

While it might seem ideal to work with a completely creative group, it typically isn’t. As always, we stand behind the idea that multiple thinking orientations working together produce the best strategic creative thinking. Yes, even better than a group composed entirely of creative types.

The similarity in thinking styles and perspectives among people who view themselves as creative doesn’t provide enough diversity for the group to work as well as one with people who are less experienced or even more reluctant to participate in creative thinking exercises.

What works for you with working with creative groups?

If you’re working in a purely creative environment, how do you get the best strategic creative thinking from your team? – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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3

B2B marketing expert Randall Rozin (who you can find on Twitter under his @RandallRozin account) is back with a history lesson on branding in the Wild West and how that models translate to the important area of employee branding  in today’s companies.

Employee Branding Lessons – Riding for the Brand by Randall Rozin

Randall-RozinIn the late 1800s, brands were like a heraldic crest, a cattleman’s coat of arms, if you will. Brands identified not only an owner or a ranch; they also provided a set of traditions and a unique sense of identity for the cowboys who represented the brand’s ranch. It was not uncommon for a cowboy of the times to ride for the brand more than for the individual ranch owner.

As the preface to his short story of the same name, Louis L’Amour described the term ‘riding for the brand’ as an expression of loyalty to an employer.  It was considered a compliment of the highest order. Today, a great deal of effort is invested by companies creating internal branding efforts designed to inspire employee identity, loyalty, and a sense of ‘riding for the brand’.

Background on the Cowboy Branding Process

Branding-CattleOn the great plains of the American West, Ketch Hands roped each calf and pulled it near the branding fire. Flankers then grabbed the calf by the ear and loose skin of the flank, lifted it up and laid it on its side. Others called out the brand of the calf’s mother and the appropriate branding iron was brought to the fire.  While one man held the calf, an Iron Man branded the calf at the hips, ribs, or shoulder according to the practice of the owner.

From Cowboys to Corporations

Modern corporate brand managers employ an analogous branding process. Today’s “Ketch Hands” are typical pre-purchase activities such as advertising, sales promotions, point of-purchase displays, permission-based marketing, social media, and trade show sellers. Each element is designed to bring potential buyers “closer to the branding fire.”

Ropers of today often take the form of marketing automation and other CRM processes. As prospects come into the company via electronic means they are tagged via a cookie or other ad-serving technique to identify their origin. Some companies have consistently done their branding job so well that their customers come willingly to the “branding fire.” Examples where customers actually brand themselves include: Harley Davidson Motorcycles (whose customers often tattoo the company’s logo on their bodies) or many apparel brand fans such as those of Nike –whose millions of customers around the world brand themselves with the Nike Swoosh.

Employee Branding – Supporting Your Brand “Iron Men and Women”

Where the ultimate aim is for customers to perceive a brand as unique, relevant, credible, and differentiated enough to seek it out, most brand managers must adopt the cowboy’s “iron man” process and apply the brand one interaction at a time. However, rather than having one “iron man,” modern brand managers must look for ways to make each brand representative an “iron man” in their own right. Today’s brand “iron men and women” must look for ways to imprint their brand on their customers through employee branding behaviors, attitudes, and consistent delivery of brand promises made at all points of contact.

Likewise for employee branding efforts, today’s management teams and leadership must continuously find credible ways to apply their own branding iron to their employees.  They do this by creating consistent linkage between company values, goals, and behaviors.  They link reward and recognition systems to the delivery of company brand behaviors and create compelling workplaces that consistently live the brand they advocate.  It’s no simple task to authentically and consistently connect brand aspirations to brand behaviors, but walking the walk in visible ways is a best place to start.

While it is entertaining to draw similarities between the branding process of cowboys and the modern branding of corporations it is, admittedly, an over simplification. Today’s brand managers do not have the luxury of taking one key opportunity to permanently brand their customers for life. In addition, unlike the rancher, the brand is not truly owned by the company, but by the customer.

Create More Riders for the Brand

An important goal of the modern brand manager is to uncover each “moment of truth” in the relationship between his/her brand and the customer.  It is equally important to define for employees the role they play in delivering against a given “moment of truth.” It is within each moment of truth that brands are truly built or damaged. The key for effective overall brand management is to ensure that each “iron man” understands his or her role in the branding process.

Like the cowboys of the Wild West, today’s brand manager looks for ways to differentiate his/her product or service from similar offerings. The modern brand is a sign of ownership, of heritage, of quality level, and of employee identification and affiliation. The ultimate goal of both the cowboys of the past, and brand managers of today, is to create more ‘riders for the brand’ to help differentiate the brand and to create more loyal advocates for it. – Randall Rozin

 

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. 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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Sunrise-CreativityToday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent involves a time to increase time devoted to prayer and reflection while avoiding the typical distractions of daily life. In what has become an annual Ash Wednesday tradition, I re-share the creativity prayer below written for a creative inspiration presentation several years ago.

Anytime you are mired in the creative doldrums, find time to seek out perhaps a new source of creative inspiration and a more peaceful creativity than you’ve been experiencing.

My hope is that this prayer can be a source of creative inspiration to  will help you discover a peaceful creativity for yourself and all those you encounter!

Lord,

Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown

 

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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careerThere’s no better time than this week to revisit where you are in your career strategy and determine where you are on track and where you aren’t.

Here are five pieces of career strategy thinking to consider:

  1. The more focused you can be with your career strategy, the easier it is to network and sell what you do. While it’s noble to resist labels, resisting labels can also cripple you.
  2. Make sure you have ways to remind yourself of your goals – both obvious ways and surprising ways that will keep  your career strategy goals in front of you when they are the furthest thing from your mind.
  3. Persistence can get you far in your career, even if your talents aren’t that strong. Unless you up your talents though, you won’t be in a position to beat persistence plus strong talent. Be persistent about honing your skills and consistently over-investing your time and mental energy on what will allow you to become what you most want to be.
  4. Many people choose to take the maximum amount of time to come up with the minimum number of ideas. Be different and take a minimum amount of time (using creative thinking tools) to come up with the maximum number of ideas.
  5. There are some people who will contact you and need to network and talk because it’s urgent and important. You talk and there’s never anything that happens afterward. Fall for it twice, but not three times. And never introduce them to anyone in your close circle. – Mike Brown

 

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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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4

It’s easy to abandon fundamental practices we all know are the right thing to do when there are too many time pressures, too much work to get done, and too few options to cope. Those situations are when cutting corners often leads to eliminating practices to save time initially, only to pay for it with more time and problems later on in your process.

One easily abandoned tool is using a strategic creative brief to launch communications projects.

Asking both clients and attendees at recent presentations, too many people either admitted they used to use strategic creative briefs but don’t much anymore or had never heard of using them.

What’s a Strategic Creative Brief?

Mike-Strategic-Comm-BriefThe strategic creative brief is a great tool to achieve various benefits. Developing and using a strategic communication brief to launch a new effort:

  • Stimulates initial strategic conversations and expectation setting
  • Documents expectations for the communications effort
  • Permits those developing the communications piece(s) to perform better and apply their creativity within the guidelines laid out
  • Allows you to more objectively judge whether the communication piece is delivering on expectations

One other related advantage from having a strategic creative brief prepared in advance is it helps minimize “I like / I don’t like” conversations when evaluating a creative piece. Without upfront documentation on what the piece is trying to do, assessing its quality typically devolves into who can win the personal preference wrestling match. Avoiding this is especially important when the people sharing personal preferences aren’t part of the target audience for the creative piece anyway.

We use strategic creative briefs with clients on both traditional marketing communications efforts and on social media content efforts. The brief may be developed for a single communications piece, or it can serve as the foundation for a campaign or series of communications pieces (such as for a collaborative blog with many posts from multiple contributors).

What should be included in the strategic creative brief?

We vary each one we develop for clients based on the particular types of communications efforts they’ll be addressing most frequently. Generally, you can think about three categories of information to include on the strategic creative brief:

  • Objectives – Details where you want to go with the project (goals; audience definition, preferences, and call to action; metrics, etc.)
  • Preferences – Details what you want it to be (brand standards; messaging; creative elements, etc.)
  • Guidelines – Details what you don’t want the project to be (Acceptable tone and look; mandatory elements, etc.)

Using this more general description (objective, preferences, and guidelines) opens up the concept to how a strategic brief can be used to launch non-communications efforts with greater clarity and better input for project teams.

Is your organization using a strategic creative brief for communications efforts?

What types of additional benefits do you find if your organization is using them? And if you’ve stopped using them, how do you view reintroducing them into your communications process?  – Mike Brown

 

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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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Following up Woody Bendle’s innovation rant on  “best practices,” try this alternative approach: instead of cataloging industry best practices in search of new, innovative ideas, look at how another organization with a comparable situation outside your industry would tackle what you’re trying to improve.

We call this Brainzooming strategic thinking exercise, “What’s It Like?”

Strategy Planning with What’s It Like?

Hospital-Home-DepotI was speaking to someone who worked at a hospital during a graduate school class where I was presenting. She bemoaned a recent strategy planning session at her hospital. She said it was clear the doctors didn’t want to be there, the staff was bored, and the strategy planning session ended with no new future-looking ideas surfacing.

To give her a sense of how the “What’s It Like” strategic thinking exercise might have completely changed the dynamics of the hospital’s strategy planning session, I asked her to describe the hospital situation. We generalized the five characteristics she named, describing the hospital as focused on:

  • Fixing things
  • Taking care of customers
  • Employing people
  • Providing opportunities for learning
  • Making money

Reviewing the list for a comparable organization, we decided all five of the characteristics matched The Home Depot.

With the new perspective The Home Depot supplied, we started brainstorming. Ideas began flowing, including the idea of the hospital offering do-it-yourself surgery. While she scoffed at the idea, I pointed out people twenty years earlier would have said no patient would ever perform medical tests. Now, however, think about how many personal medical tests line the shelves at drugstores. Quite frankly, I can see some version of do-it-yourself surgery (assisted with robotics) becoming common within twenty years, even though it was so future-looking as to be laughable within the past few years.

New, Innovative Ideas from Outside Your Industry

What’s It Like is as simple a strategic thinking exercise to use as the hospital vs. The Home Depot brainstorming example demonstrates:

  • Pick your business opportunity or challenge
  • List a variety of characteristics of your business opportunity or challenge, potentially generalizing the characteristics
  • Select an organization facing a comparable situation
  • Brainstorm how the other organization, given its different view of your organization’s situation, would approach things

With What’s It Like, you get away from the idea of industry best practices, and allow yourself to think of completely new, innovative ideas for your organization no one in your industry is practicing! – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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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