Build A Foundation (Ideas) And Show Strength (Hustle)

Hated packed lunches with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when I was a kid. Got twenty-five cents for milk money, which I used to buy candy at a local grocery on the way to school every morning. I then sold the candy to my classmates and made enough profit to buy lunch at the cafeteria. This was my first real hustle.

Now, I am much more driven by an idea – something that solves a problem. In my mind, generating new ideas is the number one priority of a business (at least one that I am part of). Meeting customer and investor expectations and battling with competitors are also priorities. (And this is where hustling creeps in.)

Ideas and the Hustle

Ideas and the Hustle

Hustling is a popular topic in the media these days.[i] The skill of ‘hustling’ has its place; you want to have hustlers on your team. Some pros of hustling include: gaining consensus faster, removing the dogma of too many rules, and building on  momentum. There are problems when everyone just ‘goes with the flow’, however. Deep, meaningful thinking and reflection is ignored. Because there is a race to completion, proper discovery does not occur. I prefer having a team of thinkers (idea actualizers), than a team of hustlers.

Delivering on an idea and hustling often accompany each other. Ideas are rooted in rational thinking, while hustling is often managing perceptions and finding ways to gain an edge. To give a hustler due credit, getting leverage involves clever maneuvering.

  • Microsoft’s idea is an operating system – create a layer between hardware and software. The hustle is locking partners in contracts. It extinguished all competition for Microsoft. It also set a battlefield for hardware manufacturers.
  • Apple’s idea is to build one of a kind, smart products: IMac, Ipod, Ipad, Iphone, etc. The hustle is product linking. For example, with their new watch, you must also have an IPhone. (Similar linkage with ITunes and the IPod.)
  • Google’s idea is a search algorithm superior to all others. The hustle is capturing an audience with a free service, then selling access to it with targeted campaigns. AdWords is paid advertising to the right and at the top of searches; albeit also a good idea, it put companies in fierce competition to get on the first page of a SERP (“search engine results page”). It is now a huge revenue generator.

Some interesting conclusions regarding an idea and the hustle.

  • Actualizing an idea comes first. You need something to hustle. Google made headway with AdWords around three years after the search engine was first released.
  • An idea is what a leader and company talk about. The hustle occurs behind the scenes and only becomes public when needed – attracting investors.  Bill Gates talked about how great Windows was, not about putting PC makers on their knees.
  • Ideas get richer and deeper. Tangential ideas circulate. A hustle has an expiration date.
  • Ideas are based on rational thinking. Hustles are often based on perceptions. A smart hustle is to get someone with clout to endorse a product or service, regardless of the depth and breadth behind it – nothing more than PR.
  • Ideas are about solving a problem. Hustles are about turning a profit.

[i] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-most-important-skill-learn-syllabus-albert-mba-pharmd-jd?trk=object-title

Original Image © Depositphoto/ oxygen64 #41916069

Actualizing An Idea

I am motivated by the flow of ideas and enjoy the whole process of actualizing them; starting with idea generation and conceptualization, then application development and project management, and finally marketing, selling and delivering on the idea. I love talking ideas. It is my belief that ideas are the cornerstone of any successful endeavor.

Idea Concept

Idea Concept

 

I  am fortunate to have read the book Make Your Idea Matter by Bernadette Jiwa; it resonates with me on many dimensions. As the title suggests, her main objective is to help us move an idea into something successful. I will share some of her insights and my reflections.

Ideas are formed in the mind but triumph in the heart… If you want people to act, you must make them feel.

You may come up with an idea in the shower, in the car, or as you go to bed. It starts as something tiny – a tweak to something that already exists. But if you become passionate about an idea and decide to actualize it, you connect to it on an emotional level – start feeling sensations in your heart and gut as you talk about it. As you convince others, you reach them personally. Following through on an idea is a soulful experience.

What makes a product, service, cause, or idea fly is the ability to understand its relevance to real people and to sell that.

An idea without a foundation never really impacts an audience. Like it or not, you have to answer a WIFM (“what’s in it for me”) for each and every person you are trying to reach. Otherwise you might get an applause for a great idea, but no one jumping on your bandwagon. For example, with a personal website concept, two WIFMs are: job seekers improve their chances of getting employed and personal branders have a platform to take ownership of an online identity – a requirement these days.

No matter what you’re pitching, selling, or talking about, talk to one person.

At every opportunity, you want others to listen and respond to your idea. Ideally, they become evangelists who spread the word. But perhaps they just share nuggets of advice. I like bouncing an idea during a random encounter or conversation; it is an opportunity to get honest, unadulterated comments.

Ideas that matter, spread.

This is why I think ideas are an integral part of a company strategy. If you have a great idea, then it sells itself. Sure, it can be difficult and costly to get early adoption (though using social media helps). An idea has the potential to go viral.

Some of my concluding thoughts on delivering on an idea:

  • A standout idea is a beacon. Everyone is attracted to it, friends and foes.
  • Protect an idea contractually. But also be ready for an emotional tax.
  • Someone has the ‘seed idea’, but as it gains momentum, get everyone to contribute.
  • Create a perpetual system of generating new ideas originating from an initial concept.
  • Recognize and reward each person who makes a contribution.
  • Feedback – good or bad – is always worthwhile.

Skills-Based Approach: Performance Review

Thinking of a performance review, an employee pictures a sit-down with a supervisor where there is a discussion of positive and negative experience over the prior period. With good management, the supervisor has a report consisting of grades or measurements based on desired behaviors and expectations; a great report has benchmarks and input from team members.

A performance review is an ideal time to apply the Skills-Based Approach methodology. Its central premise is the development of a skill set throughout a career in four stages: planning, building, presenting, and validating.

Skills-Based Approach addresses all of the ‘ten biggest mistakes bosses make in performance reviews’ mentioned in a Forbes article, but in particular, reviews that are: based on most recent events, no discussion of a professional’s goals, inaccurate assessments, no follow-up, lack of management preparation, too vague, and no pats on the back.[i]

There are a few reasons why Skills-Based Approach is an effective platform for a performance review:

Shows career progression. A performance review is far more effective if both parties understand how an employee has progressed over a period of time. Thinking in terms of a skill set is particularly useful because skill sets are malleable – adapting to changes in a career trajectory. Addresses the problem of “recency effect” by documenting what an employee has accomplished over the previous period (as well as a career).

Represents career goals. During the planning stage, an employee defines who he or she is and wants to be – thinking about passions, strengths, personality traits, etc. – then translates the results into a desired skill set and an action plan to establish an expertise with each skill. Of course an employee chooses what to share with management, but whatever he or she chooses to share is powerful. A good leader listens and guides an employee along his or her career path by planning to build skills going forward (assigning a project, going to a seminar, getting certified, etc.). Both parties ask the question: Is there room for this employee to grow with the company? Addresses the problem of “no discussion around the (employee’s) career ambitions”; the planning stage is all about showing career vision.

Bridges learning and career development. A skill set can be used to describe education and employment experiences. Learning has become a lifelong commitment for many professions, so it is likely an employee spends time outside of work building skills – an opportunity to signal management of extra efforts. Addresses the problem “everything’s perfect – until it’s not and you’re fired”; an employee does not get blindsided by a scathing review because there are skill assessments.

Shows management’s investment. An employee knows what the company has done to improve his or her wellbeing. Has management assigned a mentor? Are they giving assessments? Are they providing access to learning and/or training resources? (In the past few years, there has been explosive growth in online training resources to build skills.) Addresses the problem of “no follow-up”; everything management has done for an employee is on record.

Addresses interpersonal capabilities. Soft skills – those representing interpersonal and emotional capabilities – are an important component of a skill set. Everyone is talking about the value of emotional intelligence – EQ. Unlike an IQ, you can improve your EQ.

Defines a clear framework to base the review on. Create tables laying out the progression of a skill set through each of the stages. It is simple, yet effective and doable. (See appendix in A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career as a point of reference.) Addresses the problems of “no preparation” and “too vague”; management is required to review the four tables representing each stage of a Skills-Based Approach.

Reference for rewards. As an employee validates skills – getting a certification, earning a degree, etc., he or she earn a raise or bonus. For example, when accountants get their CPA, they get a raise of ten thousand dollars. Addresses the problem of “no pats on the back”; whether it is monetary or a gesture, management has clear bars to give recognition.

Way to communicate skill set expertise. Whether the audience includes clients, partners, or teammates, employees benefit by letting others know about their skill set – the presenting stage of Skills-Based Approach. It might be an assurance (prevention oriented) or a show of strength (promotion oriented). A good topic of discussion during the review is how an employee is communicating his or her skill competencies – on a personal website and social media.

Of course, there are other issues in a performance review that would not be captured in the context of a Skills-Based Approach – such as discussing particular projects, communication interactions, and legal issues. Part of the review should be about ‘company culture’. However, the crux of a performance review works with a Skills-Based Approach.

Performance Review

Performance Review

[i] http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericjackson/2012/01/09/ten-reasons-performance-reviews-are-done-terribly/

Gain An Edge With A Personal Website

Deciding to Go Mobile

Companies with an established web presence must consider a mobile presence; this means having mobile apps that interact with its’ primary services. All major social media services have invested significantly to boost mobile accessibility. It was forced on them. Their monthly active users already consume services on mobile devices on par with computers; in the future, mobile usage dwarfs computer usage. Just consider, IBM recently made a whopping four billion dollar investment in cloud and mobile computing.

Going Mobile

Going Mobile

The question in balancing a web presence and mobile presence should be based on processes. Breakdown how consumers use your services in tasks, then answer the following questions:

  • How much time does it take to complete the task? Does it require focused attention? With Twitter, it is easier to view Tweets and respond to others from the app; in fact, for many, it is a requirement to be active on Twitter all day long. When you are running campaigns and researching what you are going to broadcast on a given day, it is easier to use web services.
  • Who is consuming the service? Are they likely using a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or computer? When are they accessing the content – before, during, or after work? Where are they – in the car, at their desk, or at home? Facebook – popularized by the younger generation – is an important communication platform. For the older generation, it is a source of recent news. Users access Facebook via their smartphone whenever there is a break in the day.
  • What content is used? Is it memory intensive? Does it require a lot of processing? What is the optimal screen size to view the content? LinkedIn comes to mind. Conducting advanced searches and reviewing many profiles in a sitting is easier to accomplish through its web service, but it is easier to send quick messages, make connections, and check updates on its app.

There are three strategies to establish a mobile presence. First, create your own set of apps that run on the three main platforms – Mac IOS, Windows 8, and Google Android. Second, provide API access, so third-party developers create mobile apps based on your service. Third, make your website mobile friendly – having it responsive or delivering content in a different way; all mobile devices have browsers.

There is always a place for a standard computer. Much of the content we consume requires a larger screen, better processing power, and faster memory access. There are tasks like programming, writing, editing videos or graphics, playing graphic intensive games, and analyzing or modeling statistics that you do predominately on a computer.

An advantage with using a browser as opposed to an app is it has a standard protocol: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. With HTML, the structure, tagging, and functioning of websites are supported universally by a worldwide consortium. This ensures there is a security apparatus in place. It is easy to learn HTML, CSS and JavaScript quickly, (to see the underlying code of any website, simply view the source code from within any browser). It is also easier to develop websites. You can code a website in a text editor then upload it to a server, altogether taking you five minutes. With apps on mobile devices, there are far less rules and it is more challenging to learn all of the intricacies. For example, with Android, you download an editor, install Java, and use an emulator (of how an app works on various devices); moreover, there is a clear learning curve with programming in Java.

Apps are becoming a staple of future generations. (People label Generation Y as digital natives, I label Generation Z as mobile natives.) Apps probably become more prevalent than websites in many things, though websites will always have its place. In going mobile, companies need to breakdown things down into tasking – when, where, and how content is consumed.

Original Image © Depositphoto/ cienpies #9857738

What’s the Rush in Putting up a Personal Website?

One clear signal I get from students and professionals is that they want to build a personal website fast. So companies offering these services advertise how quickly you can have it up and running. Let’s say the average time is to have one up in five minutes. My issue with convenience and haste is the cost it might have on your reputation. A personal website significantly impacts your online personal brand (aura and identity in particular), so I advise getting everything right before publishing it. However, I acknowledge most professionals do not want to waste any time.

According to a survey I conducted in early 2014, seventy-one percent of Millennials are ‘not sure a personal website is worth the expense’ (time and money).[i] Considering there are many free services out there, time becomes the big factor.

My business education is tugging at me saying you must meet your customer needs, and my IT designer experience- Steve Jobs inspired – is tugging at me saying you can tell the customer what they need. Believe me, I know you must have a solid relationship with your customer base and listen to their requests.

Developing Strategies

Developing Strategies

Nevertheless, I think the best way to think about building a personal website is to consider when taking shortcuts are appropriate. Here are some of the ways to companies speed up the process in starting a personal website:

Importing information from a LinkedIn profile. This feature is necessary because it not only saves time, but also reduces errors. As you retype information in a website interface, there is a natural tendency for typos.

Use of stock images for style and layout. It is easy retrieve stock images (where you pay to use an image someone else created without any direct input from you). This is fast and easy. However, using images you or a you-guided photographer creates is more meaningful. Perhaps use stock images to get your website up, but get your own images in the long-run.

Uploading content. A big component of a personal website is getting your content on the server; this includes photo galleries, documents, presentations, videos, etc. It is helpful if the uploading process is quick and painless. A great feature is to directly link to online storage drives such as DropBox, Google Drive, or Microsoft One Drive.

Using AI to generate style and aesthetics for you. One company has developed AI that automatically generates the style and layout of your website for you – no templates. Albeit an interesting concept, this has dangerous implications. Should you rely on AI to tell your story for you? Should you rely on AI to peg your personal brand? Perhaps this is an added convenience customers want, but personally, I would rather decide how to represent myself and not depend on an algorithm. I compare it to a representation in the physical world – dressing up everyday. Do you want a computer telling you what to wear? (Perhaps?!!)

Integrated with social media. Much of your online presence already exists on your social media accounts, so you want widgets that display related content. Bringing in social media feeds quickly adds substance to your personal website.

To conclude, think about a company building its website. Does it want to put something up as fast as it can? Is it not concerned how every graphic and wording is crafted as a portrayal of the company brand? To some extent, a professional should have similar expectations and care with his or her website. A personal website is the cornerstone of an effective online personal brand.

[i] Ryan Frischmann. Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity. (July 2014).

Original Image © Depositphoto/  fotoskat #2990674 and  bevangoldswain  #14778925

Reflection on Personal Website Concepts

Often times I think in functional ways, so get tunneled vision on sharing key concepts and forget to include personal reflection. So, in this blog, I thought I would share some of the stories behind the concepts.

The story behind a mainstream personal website service starts around Christmas time in 2010. I pulled my brother’s tag from a hat for our family grab-bag and I had to give him a gift. He has traveled extensively around the world, so I was going to build him a website to share his travel experiences with stories and images. However, he preferred having his own personal website to help promote his work for non-profits. Of course, I tried taking a short-cut by using a platform from an existing web service. I could not find one – there was not a web service with the functionality we needed. This is when my brother and I knew we had an opportunity to be innovative by designing a personal professional website service.

We learned two important characteristics about a personal website from this experience. First, it establishes an online identity. A person wants it to appear first in a Google search about them, therefore it must deliver a deep, meaningful impression. Second, there are both personal and professional themes on the website. Part of an effective personal website is presenting and validating skills, but another equally important part is communicating an aura – something that requires media, style, and aesthetics.

I took an interest in academics at the start of senior year of my undergraduate education, before then I was more into a social experience. I was in a fraternity and made some great, lifelong friends (would not change that). But my goal was to get a degree, not actual learning. For that year and in my graduate education, I performed well academically. It was simply a switch- balance social and academic experiences. All it takes is accountability, dedication, and tricking yourself that learning is enjoyable. I want to help others to turn on the switch earlier in their lives.

In creating the Skills-Based Approach methodology, one of my primary objectives is to get college students and young professionals on the right career track. I feel so many young adults lack maturity, so do not go through the necessary self-reflection to find career fulfillment. Personally, I think it is a generational thing. In their two books Academically Adrift and Aspiring Adults Adrift, the authors provide a compelling case that this problem of career preparedness affects a majority. In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I suggest four career planning strategies: craftsman’s mindset, self-awareness, product to market, and passion theory. My goal is to get the average person thinking about higher education and a career much earlier, take responsibility for their own learning, and grow personally and professionally – be happy.

I root for the underdog. A person who has fresh insights should be successful, regardless of their status and how many connections they have, in my opinion. Things I fear about personal branding approaches laden in self-promotion is that it becomes a ‘popularity contest’ in social media and credentialism takes over. This is why I am an advocate of using the power of demonstration. Get your ideas and content out there.

With online personal branding, one of my goals is to remove the stigma of self-promotion. I acknowledge varying doses of self-promotion are required in personal branding because professionals compete against each other, whether it be for a position, clients, or eyeballs on content. I cringe when forced to self-promote. I am more or less an introvert who prefers writing and sharing content, then sitting back and hoping it gets read based on the content itself (and not what I say about myself). So I came up with a model of online personal branding where self-promotion is not a focal point. Instead I suggest assessing your skill set, aura, and identity and then projecting it onto a network. No one likes too much self-promotion on a personal level, why do we accept so much of it on a professional level.

Adopting a ‘Company Culture’

As the idea of a “company culture” evolves, we are starting to define it based on the behaviors of workers. Previously, trendy companies came up with catchy mission statements that were meant to capture the meaning of their existence. Just ask a baby boomer. They will tell you “company culture” is something puppet-mastered by the CEO of the company and most of the workers don’t buy into it. But now, “company culture” connotes something deeper. It is a reflection of the purpose, values, behaviors, and strategies of an entire organization.

In The Culture Engine, S. Chris Edmonds suggests that leadership creates a standing constitution defining each of these elements in relation to the company’s trajectory. Everyone is expected to follow it as the law of the company.[i] And this is only the beginning, in the near future, we dig much, much deeper. Everything we do will be measured. As we work, our micro-behaviors – eye movements, twitches, etc. – are monitored by productivity technologies (some of which already exist).[ii] Leaders will have access to our inner-most emotions. Personally, I think these futuristic applications are excessive (but then again, perhaps I am like a baby-boomer making sense of where we are now).

Constitution

(The graphic is meant to illustrate concepts in the blog. Though it represents my values, it does not necessarily represent the values of TheProfessionalWebsite.)

I created a constitution according to Edmonds’ suggested approach. I found it to be worthwhile. There are some generalities. For example, I bet most companies value teamwork and describe some similar behavior expectations. Another example, all technology companies value innovativeness. But it really comes down to defining the behaviors; this involves addressing subtleties and working through the fine-print definitions with an inner circle. Once the constitution is ready, the benefit comes in getting an entire company living and breathing every word of it. Throughout the book, Edmonds provides ample evidence adopting a company culture pays off. Here is one stat:

His clients have experienced a ’35-40 percent engagement gains in 12 to 18 months’ (page 30). (Higher engagement increases creativity and productivity.)

Gregg Lederman is an expert on organizational branding. Love the story about how he rebranded an iconic ice cream parlor in Rochester. Buckman’s was seemingly on its last legs when Gregg and his partner took it over. They decided to take control of their customers’ experience: “Think summer, baseball, dirt, grass, ice cream!” Their plan involved breaking things down into behaviors and expectations (similar to a constitution):

We made the company mindset meaningful to employees by translating it into fifteen nonnegotiable behaviors that every employee could and should do.[iii]

Altogether, getting a company to adopt a culture based on behaviors and expectations is a strong step forward. It is something most companies did not think of twenty years ago. You cannot control your workers’ attitudes and perceptions, but you can control how they behave (point made by Edmonds). Moreover, new technologies are making all of these desired workers’ behaviors measurable and accessible to management. For example, every sales pitch a person makes can be caught on video, phone records, and online communications and then be dissected by someone in management. In the future, it will be interesting to see how “micro-analysis” of behaviors impacts the relationship between workers and their leaders. No one likes to be micro-managed, yet it is worth getting a company culture right. Edmonds makes clear that once the constitution is ratified, those who do not follow it should be asked to leave the company!

My tidbit… Regarding company culture, everyone should have similar internal and external behaviors. In other words, practice what you preach to customers. Workers should use the services your company offers and practice the underlying methodologies.

[i] S. Chris Edmonds. The Culture Engine. (Wiley, 2014).

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/in-people-analytics-youre-not-a-human-youre-a-data-point-1424133771

[iii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/best-practices-drive-results-gregg-lederman

Intelligences

This summarizes the main concepts drawn from the series of blogs on intelligences.

Using Intelligence Competencies to Identify Skills

Generally speaking, you can map skills to various intelligences: cognitive, emotional, creative and contextual (and in the diagram below I also include skills related to using artificial intelligence). I say generally because there is some overlap where skills require multiple intelligences. Understanding intelligent competencies and then mapping them to skills is useful for the planning and building stages of a Skill-Based Approach.

During the planning stage, you derive a list of skills you will need to pursue your career aspirations. This is no different than any other type of career planning, although once you decide what you want to do, you translate what you have into skills.[i]

Intelligence To Skills

Intelligence To Skills

Here are some examples:

  • The results of an IQ test determines powerhouse skills – something you concentrate on building throughout your career.
  • The results of an EQ test might indicate what ‘soft skills’ you must work on to be successful. If you have a high EQ, find ways to apply your emotional intelligence –  perhaps in leadership or human resources.
  • If you are creative, build skills that draw on your talents.
  • Understanding intelligences also helps you understand how you might learn best, so you can create a personalized plan to build your desired skills.

In A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career, I discuss how to translate the results of a personality, interests, and strengths test into a career development plan based on building and validating a skill set; here, I suggest how to use the results of intelligence tests.

There is value in translating your career development into skill sets; it defines your career plan in a universal language everyone understands. Educators and employers know skills, so talking in skills effectively bridges your education and employment experiences. Skill sets are also being used in most of the social media profiles, job board profiles, and personal websites. Finally, most professionals must commit to lifelong learning and validate their skills in some way. I suggest adopting the Skills-Based Approach methodology. It is a progression in four stages: planning, building, presenting, and validating. Each stage has proposed ways to achieve its objectives. The beauty of a skills-based approach is its simplicity and flexibility.

I loosely use three intelligences – analytical (which I call cognitive), creative, and contextual – from Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence. I added artificial and emotional intelligence because both are receiving considerable attention nowadays and I think are distinguishable from the others.

[i] Ryan Frischmann. A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career. (Trafford, 2013).

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