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Aug

24

2017

Nobody Tells Leaders When They’re Doing a Bad Job. Here’s How to Do It Right.

Published by in category Daily, Leadership | Leave a Comment

Two threads on Hacker News recently have shed light on the utter failures of leadership in tech. The first was an honest question: “Women in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments?” The second was in response to an article, “Why Good People Leave Large Tech Companies.”

These threads read like the Inept Executive Handbook  –  failures to address cultural issues, ignorance of the reality of day-to-day life for their employees, mishandling of everything from HR complaints to stock options.Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

My intention isn’t to be unnecessarily hard on executives, all humans are prone to error, but executives are at the greatest risk of believing a single version of reality  —  our own. I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, we often get it wrong.

And if you’re relying on your open door policy to keep a pulse on things? I’m sorry, but you’re just not doing enough.

The executive title is a funny thing. The higher you ascend in an organization the more isolated you tend to become. It starts getting harder and harder to get a true picture of how effective you are at leading a team.

Executives, if you want the actual truth, you need to stop assuming people will show up to tell you, you’re going to have to work for it. Why? Well we’re all subject to the idiosyncrasies of human behavior. As a senior leader, you invariably get isolated from an honest assessment of your behaviors. The main reason it happens is fear.

The people in the best position to provide leaders with honest feedback on what’s working and what’s not have the most to lose by providing that feedback.

Even in the most progressive and supportive environments people are reluctant to provide honest feedback on their leaders  —  self-preservation is an exceptionally strong motivator.

We’re trying something a little different at HubSpot to ensure our senior leaders know exactly what they’re doing that’s having a positive impact and what’s not. That’s where I come in. My job at HubSpot is to be the person that tells executives the things others won’t or can’t.

Yes, it’s a weird role.

I want to share this process because I believe it’s time for executives to stop expecting that someone will speak up if something needs to change. It’s time for executives to get serious about honest feedback.

My 3 Step Process for Honest Executive Feedback

1) Identify a broad set of people surrounding the leader in question and conduct in-depth feedback interviews with them.

To get a comprehensive set of feedback I will interview an average of 18 people that interact with the executive being reviewed. I break the interviewees into the following groups:

  • Direct reports/Team Members  —  not much explanation need on this one
  • Peers  —  these are people operating at the same level as the executive being reviewed and have a working relationship with that person
  • Associates  —  these are people that the executive works with cross-functionally to get work done
  • Manager  —  that’s pretty clear
  • Self  —  yup, that’s right, the executive does a self-assessment answering the same questions as everyone else

For each person giving feedback I will conduct a 30-minute interview and capture their sentiments through handwritten notes. As soon as an interview ends I take a half hour and transcribe my notes into a master document that will ultimately contain notes from all the interviews for a particular 360.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Woah, that’s really inefficient … you should just take notes on your computer or better yet record the interviews”.

You’d think so.

But, what I’ve found is that nothing reduces the level of candor quite like typing (no eye contact), and the reminder that an audio record of the conversation will live on. So, old school pen and paper it is.

2) Compile the interview findings into a 360-feedback report for the executive.

When all the interviews are complete and the notes have been transcribed into a master notes document, I read the notes multiple times to draw out key feedback findings and capture them in a separate document that will become the Executive 360 Feedback Report. To qualify as a “finding,” an issues needs to have been mentioned by at least 5 different people  —  this is all about uncovering the signal in the feedback noise.

Then I match up the quotes from each feedback interview with the appropriate finding I listed in the feedback report, and finally, write an overall summary of that finding to add clarity and context to the supporting quotes.

The feedback findings are presented in 4 sections:

  1. The first section covers Strengths/Positive impacts.
  2. The second covers What Gets in Your Way/ Negative Impacts.
  3. The third section is Stop/Start/Continue which contains all of the specific advice interviewees provided when I asked them “If you could give [Leader]specific advice to be more effective, what would you tell them to stop doing? What would you tell them to start doing? What would you tell them to continue doing because it’s working?”
  4. The fourth section is the Self-Assessment. As I mentioned above, the leader receiving the 360 feedback is asked the same questions as the people I interviewed. Their self-perceptions and perspectives are detailed in the report so the executive can compare their own point of view to that of those providing feedback.

My intent is to be as impartial as possible, but I am also filtering the feedback through the lens of HubSpot. There are some behaviors that, in a different organization, would be a strength. The core goal of this program is to provide effective and actionable feedback that is calibrated to the context of the unique attributes of our organization.

3) Share the feedback with the executive and their manager.

This is arguably the hardest part of the process. At HubSpot we consider feedback to be the breakfast of champions; that doesn’t mean it’s always yummy. While The feedback I provide centers on strengths and positive impacts, the part everyone always wants to dig into are the Negative Impacts and What Gets in Your Way.

In every 360, there are inevitably pieces of negative feedback the executive is surprised to learn, finds tough to face, or disagrees with entirely. That’s to be expected. There are some key things I focus the executive on when delivering this feedback to make the experience as palatable as possible.

The first thing I coach executives to consider is how can you derive even more success from your strengths and the behaviors that have a positive impact on the organization and the people around you. I caution people when they consider the Negative Impacts/What Gets in Your Way findings to not jump to the conclusion that “I need to work on all this right away”. As you might suspect, it’s more complicated than that.

When thinking about the things that are having a negative effect or are getting in the way of greater success you must think more broadly than just “I need to work on that”. You need to consider the following:

  • Is this negative impact a function of the role I have and no change on my part is going to really affect the sentiment of the finding?
  • Is this the result of how I fundamentally behave as a person and making a change in this area will take me years of effort which won’t address the issue right now?
  • What if I figure out how to minimize the negative impact the behavior is having rather than trying to change who I am?
  • Is this something that I have the capacity to change with relative ease and the change will make a tangible difference in my effectiveness as a manager and leader?

If you’re still with me I want to make something really clear  — the sole purpose of this effort is to make good executives better, by keeping them tuned into the actual reality, not just the reality in their own heads. Getting an Executive 360 isn’t an indicator that things are going poorly for that person. It’s an indicator that there are even greater heights of achievement for that person, and it’s critical they understand what to lean into and what needs work. That’s why the feedback review itself takes a two-part form:

Part One

I conduct a one hour review session with the executive to go over the findings to ensure there is clarity around all the feedback contained in the Executive 360 document. During that conversation, we make some initial judgments together on the strengths to lean into and the negative-impact areas where either making a change would be effective or minimizing the impact of something is the right approach.

Depending on the nature of the feedback and the approaches needed to move forward, we arrive at a conclusion on the level of involvement I might have in helping them take action on the feedback they now have.

Part Two

I conduct a half hour session with the executive’s manager to review the overall findings. In that session, I provide a summary document that only contains the positive and negative findings. This document does not include the quotes for each finding, the Stop, Start, Continue section or the self-review.

Given the highly personal nature of the feedback, it is the recipient’s decision to share the more detailed version of the feedback with their manager. During the session with the executive’s manager, I will also share the general gist of the conversation I had with the executive and any next steps we might have decided.

It is essential for both the manager and the feedback recipient to be aware of the findings since much of the development work that results from the document and the review will be done by the executive and their manager. The 360 itself, while a valuable tool to get clarity into how people perceive an executive’s effectiveness, won’t change behavior.

That’s on the shoulders of the executive to do the hard work of leaning into strengths and developing strategies to address the things that get in their way. My role in that is to provide further coaching at the discretion of the development partnership between the executive and their manager.

As you’ve probably guessed, this level of feedback is a lot of effort and laden with emotional landmines.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder.

There are a lot of reasons people may choose to follow a leader  — vision, inspiration, power, fear  —  those are just a few. Regardless of people’s motivation to follow, the way you lead will have a significant impact on your ability to drive success in your organization. Often the way you lead is referred to as your leadership style.

The funny thing about your leadership style is that you don’t define it  —  your followers do.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder. “Wait” you say, “I’m the one leading, so I’m setting my leadership style”. Actually, you are exhibiting the set of behaviors you are using to lead. Your followers, the ones observing and being affected by those behaviors, define your leadership style.

Think of it this way. While one person you lead might see your approach as demanding and blunt; another might see you as decisive with high expectations; yet another might see you as an unreasonable jerk who doesn’t listen.

Who’s right? They all are.

And the best leaders aren’t naive enough to believe that their actions or good intentions are perceived the same way by every person.

So if you want honest feedback on how you’re doing, stop assuming that it’s just going to show up. It’s on you to get out there and uncover the issues — and the opportunities.

Editor’s note: a version of this post first appeared on ThinkGrowth.org. 

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Aug

24

2017

Nobody Tells Leaders When They’re Doing a Bad Job. Here’s How to Do It Right.

Two threads on Hacker News recently have shed light on the utter failures of leadership in tech. The first was an honest question: “Women in tech, how do you find non-toxic work environments?” The second was in response to an article, “Why Good People Leave Large Tech Companies.”

These threads read like the Inept Executive Handbook  –  failures to address cultural issues, ignorance of the reality of day-to-day life for their employees, mishandling of everything from HR complaints to stock options.Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

My intention isn’t to be unnecessarily hard on executives, all humans are prone to error, but executives are at the greatest risk of believing a single version of reality  —  our own. I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, we often get it wrong.

And if you’re relying on your open door policy to keep a pulse on things? I’m sorry, but you’re just not doing enough.

The executive title is a funny thing. The higher you ascend in an organization the more isolated you tend to become. It starts getting harder and harder to get a true picture of how effective you are at leading a team.

Executives, if you want the actual truth, you need to stop assuming people will show up to tell you, you’re going to have to work for it. Why? Well we’re all subject to the idiosyncrasies of human behavior. As a senior leader, you invariably get isolated from an honest assessment of your behaviors. The main reason it happens is fear.

The people in the best position to provide leaders with honest feedback on what’s working and what’s not have the most to lose by providing that feedback.

Even in the most progressive and supportive environments people are reluctant to provide honest feedback on their leaders  —  self-preservation is an exceptionally strong motivator.

We’re trying something a little different at HubSpot to ensure our senior leaders know exactly what they’re doing that’s having a positive impact and what’s not. That’s where I come in. My job at HubSpot is to be the person that tells executives the things others won’t or can’t.

Yes, it’s a weird role.

I want to share this process because I believe it’s time for executives to stop expecting that someone will speak up if something needs to change. It’s time for executives to get serious about honest feedback.

My 3 Step Process for Honest Executive Feedback

1) Identify a broad set of people surrounding the leader in question and conduct in-depth feedback interviews with them.

To get a comprehensive set of feedback I will interview an average of 18 people that interact with the executive being reviewed. I break the interviewees into the following groups:

  • Direct reports/Team Members  —  not much explanation need on this one
  • Peers  —  these are people operating at the same level as the executive being reviewed and have a working relationship with that person
  • Associates  —  these are people that the executive works with cross-functionally to get work done
  • Manager  —  that’s pretty clear
  • Self  —  yup, that’s right, the executive does a self-assessment answering the same questions as everyone else

For each person giving feedback I will conduct a 30-minute interview and capture their sentiments through handwritten notes. As soon as an interview ends I take a half hour and transcribe my notes into a master document that will ultimately contain notes from all the interviews for a particular 360.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Woah, that’s really inefficient … you should just take notes on your computer or better yet record the interviews”.

You’d think so.

But, what I’ve found is that nothing reduces the level of candor quite like typing (no eye contact), and the reminder that an audio record of the conversation will live on. So, old school pen and paper it is.

2) Compile the interview findings into a 360-feedback report for the executive.

When all the interviews are complete and the notes have been transcribed into a master notes document, I read the notes multiple times to draw out key feedback findings and capture them in a separate document that will become the Executive 360 Feedback Report. To qualify as a “finding,” an issues needs to have been mentioned by at least 5 different people  —  this is all about uncovering the signal in the feedback noise.

Then I match up the quotes from each feedback interview with the appropriate finding I listed in the feedback report, and finally, write an overall summary of that finding to add clarity and context to the supporting quotes.

The feedback findings are presented in 4 sections:

  1. The first section covers Strengths/Positive impacts.
  2. The second covers What Gets in Your Way/ Negative Impacts.
  3. The third section is Stop/Start/Continue which contains all of the specific advice interviewees provided when I asked them “If you could give [Leader]specific advice to be more effective, what would you tell them to stop doing? What would you tell them to start doing? What would you tell them to continue doing because it’s working?”
  4. The fourth section is the Self-Assessment. As I mentioned above, the leader receiving the 360 feedback is asked the same questions as the people I interviewed. Their self-perceptions and perspectives are detailed in the report so the executive can compare their own point of view to that of those providing feedback.

My intent is to be as impartial as possible, but I am also filtering the feedback through the lens of HubSpot. There are some behaviors that, in a different organization, would be a strength. The core goal of this program is to provide effective and actionable feedback that is calibrated to the context of the unique attributes of our organization.

3) Share the feedback with the executive and their manager.

This is arguably the hardest part of the process. At HubSpot we consider feedback to be the breakfast of champions; that doesn’t mean it’s always yummy. While The feedback I provide centers on strengths and positive impacts, the part everyone always wants to dig into are the Negative Impacts and What Gets in Your Way.

In every 360, there are inevitably pieces of negative feedback the executive is surprised to learn, finds tough to face, or disagrees with entirely. That’s to be expected. There are some key things I focus the executive on when delivering this feedback to make the experience as palatable as possible.

The first thing I coach executives to consider is how can you derive even more success from your strengths and the behaviors that have a positive impact on the organization and the people around you. I caution people when they consider the Negative Impacts/What Gets in Your Way findings to not jump to the conclusion that “I need to work on all this right away”. As you might suspect, it’s more complicated than that.

When thinking about the things that are having a negative effect or are getting in the way of greater success you must think more broadly than just “I need to work on that”. You need to consider the following:

  • Is this negative impact a function of the role I have and no change on my part is going to really affect the sentiment of the finding?
  • Is this the result of how I fundamentally behave as a person and making a change in this area will take me years of effort which won’t address the issue right now?
  • What if I figure out how to minimize the negative impact the behavior is having rather than trying to change who I am?
  • Is this something that I have the capacity to change with relative ease and the change will make a tangible difference in my effectiveness as a manager and leader?

If you’re still with me I want to make something really clear  — the sole purpose of this effort is to make good executives better, by keeping them tuned into the actual reality, not just the reality in their own heads. Getting an Executive 360 isn’t an indicator that things are going poorly for that person. It’s an indicator that there are even greater heights of achievement for that person, and it’s critical they understand what to lean into and what needs work. That’s why the feedback review itself takes a two-part form:

Part One

I conduct a one hour review session with the executive to go over the findings to ensure there is clarity around all the feedback contained in the Executive 360 document. During that conversation, we make some initial judgments together on the strengths to lean into and the negative-impact areas where either making a change would be effective or minimizing the impact of something is the right approach.

Depending on the nature of the feedback and the approaches needed to move forward, we arrive at a conclusion on the level of involvement I might have in helping them take action on the feedback they now have.

Part Two

I conduct a half hour session with the executive’s manager to review the overall findings. In that session, I provide a summary document that only contains the positive and negative findings. This document does not include the quotes for each finding, the Stop, Start, Continue section or the self-review.

Given the highly personal nature of the feedback, it is the recipient’s decision to share the more detailed version of the feedback with their manager. During the session with the executive’s manager, I will also share the general gist of the conversation I had with the executive and any next steps we might have decided.

It is essential for both the manager and the feedback recipient to be aware of the findings since much of the development work that results from the document and the review will be done by the executive and their manager. The 360 itself, while a valuable tool to get clarity into how people perceive an executive’s effectiveness, won’t change behavior.

That’s on the shoulders of the executive to do the hard work of leaning into strengths and developing strategies to address the things that get in their way. My role in that is to provide further coaching at the discretion of the development partnership between the executive and their manager.

As you’ve probably guessed, this level of feedback is a lot of effort and laden with emotional landmines.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder.

There are a lot of reasons people may choose to follow a leader  — vision, inspiration, power, fear  —  those are just a few. Regardless of people’s motivation to follow, the way you lead will have a significant impact on your ability to drive success in your organization. Often the way you lead is referred to as your leadership style.

The funny thing about your leadership style is that you don’t define it  —  your followers do.

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder. “Wait” you say, “I’m the one leading, so I’m setting my leadership style”. Actually, you are exhibiting the set of behaviors you are using to lead. Your followers, the ones observing and being affected by those behaviors, define your leadership style.

Think of it this way. While one person you lead might see your approach as demanding and blunt; another might see you as decisive with high expectations; yet another might see you as an unreasonable jerk who doesn’t listen.

Who’s right? They all are.

And the best leaders aren’t naive enough to believe that their actions or good intentions are perceived the same way by every person.

So if you want honest feedback on how you’re doing, stop assuming that it’s just going to show up. It’s on you to get out there and uncover the issues — and the opportunities.

Editor’s note: a version of this post first appeared on ThinkGrowth.org. 

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Jun

24

2017

Which Fictional Boss Are You? [Flowchart]

Published by in category Daily, Leadership | Comments are closed

fictional-boss-flowchart.png

I know I’m literally ten years late to this, but I just started watching Mad Men on Netflix. And guys — newsflash — it’s a really good show

The old school ad strategies, the fun outfits, the drama — I love it all. Except Don Draper’s management style. That, in my humble opinion, could use a little work.

I know my stance might be colored by several generation gaps. I’m a millennial, and according to some reports, we need to be told we’re smart and wonderful every two seconds or we turn to avocado toast dust — but it seems to me that Draper could afford to encourage his team a little bit more. Or at the very least, not rely so heavily on cryptic one-liners and mysterious stares to drive the direction of major projects. 

I probably won’t ever relate to Don Draper’s unconventional leadership style on Mad Men, but there are plenty of other fictional bosses from TV and film to aspire to — or avoid becoming. 

To help you discover your fictional boss alter ego, the folks at GetVoIP spun up this clever flowchart. So go ahead: Take a break from your morning grind, and answer the questions below to figure out which beloved (or notorious) fictional boss your leadership style most aligns with. It’s still kind of work related, right?

which-fictional-boss-are-you-final.png

Which fictional boss did you get? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image Credit: AMC 

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May

31

2017

How to Communicate Effectively at Work With Your Boss

Published by in category Daily, Leadership, Management | Comments are closed

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Do you feel like you and your boss are on the same page most days of the week?

If you nodded “yes” emphatically, that’s fantastic. But many readers might have a different opinion. In fact, a recent HubSpot survey revealed that while 70% of executives might reflect positively on their team’s marketing strategy, only 50% of individual contributors agree.

soi-anchor-cta-2017

As a marketer, it’s imperative to communicate effectively with your boss to avoid this executive divide. I wanted to create communication rules that all marketers can follow, so I went straight to the source for some answers and talked to my own boss.

I interviewed Rick Kranz about effective communication with his marketing team. He has more than 30 years of business management experience and was more than willing to share his opinions with us. Read on for his thoughts and key takeaways about communication strategies between managers and employees.

8 Rules for Communicating With Your Boss

1) Start with the bottom line.

I asked Kranz what he thinks is the most effective way for your marketing team to talk to you.

Start with the bottom line. When you speak in hyperbole you end up telling a story that eventually gets to the bottom line. Start with, ‘we are getting 50 more leads and here is why…’ and avoid, ‘So I ran an email campaign and a PPC campaign and had HUGE success. We are now getting 50 more leads.’ When you start with the bottom line, I am in a position to then ask appropriate questions like, ‘How did that happen?’”

What does this mean?

Don’t beat around the bush. Your boss is a busy person and you need to respect that. Give her the point of your discussion first, then go backward if questions are proposed. This will keep your communication streamlined and focused.

2) Speak in numbers.

I asked Kranz if he prefers the bottom line to be in numerical or qualitative data, and if he prefers to hear about the bottom line or have a document or graph to guide the information.

I prefer numbers over words. A lot of CEOs are numbers-driven. Visual data is much quicker to digest, so if information can be visual, please make it so. If you give us a spreadsheet, we’re happy, but if you give us a paragraph to read, it can be left open to interpretation.”

What does this mean?

Numbers are powerful because they can communicate success (or problems) at a glance. Use them to your advantage when communicating with your boss — numerical data speaks for itself.

3) Schedule when you communicate with your boss.

Next, I asked Kranz if he prefers discussions with his marketing team to be scheduled in advance.

It’s best to schedule a meeting with me. That way, I can plan for our discussion and focus. You don’t want my mind to be elsewhere, and if our discussion isn’t scheduled, then you’re most likely going to end up interrupting my workload, which is inefficient for both of us.”

What does this mean?

We all can attest to the fact that writing back and forth via email can get messy, so try not to fill your boss’s inbox with email after email from you.

Instead, schedule meetings with your boss to avoid messy lines of email communication and walk-in office interruptions. This will help streamline your communications and save valuable time.

4) Establish the that you have certain “rights” to communication.

I asked Kranz if he limits the number of employees that he communicates with directly.

Right now, I speak directly with everyone at our agency because there is only a handful of us, and that’s how our business model works. At companies I have been a part of in the past, with more than 50 employees, I would scale down my communications to about seven people. There isn’t a rule for it, it was just more effective that way.”

What does this mean?

Do you have the right to speak with your boss? Of course — we all have that right. But that doesn’t always make for effective communication.

If you have concerns you want to address with your boss, but you’re not the main point of contact with her, you should bring your concerns to your direct supervisor. This person will address your concerns with you, or take it up the food chain to your boss.

5) Communicate the anticipated results and next steps of your plans to your boss.

Next, we chatted about how Kranz wants to discuss future plans and goals with employees.

Always be able to tell me where we are, where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. If we’re at point B and you want to get us to point A, then tell me how you plan to do that, and what will happen once that step occurs. Communicate the results of your plan and what the next steps are that I can help you with.”

What does this mean?

Communicate your plans effectively by addressing what the plan is, what the results will be and what the next steps are. If you bring these talking points to the table, you’ll be organized, and your plan will be well spoken for.

6) Bring problems to your boss’s attention right away.

If a problem emerges, Kranz wants his team to bring it to him right away.

Come find me in person, because the problem needs to be addressed right away. Sending an email can delay my response time and doesn’t put us in a good position for a problem-solving discussion. Additionally, it’s smart to always bring at least one solution to the table. Never give me a problem without a solution, because then you’re just passing the buck.”

What does this mean?

Don’t skulk away when a problem pops up or a mistake occurs. Respond to it proactively, and don’t keep your boss in the dark. Communicate your own proposed solutions when you present the problem so you and your boss have a basis to start a problem-solving conversation.

7) There’s a right time and place to promote your achievements.

I asked Kranz how he prefers achievements and success be brought to his attention by direct reports.

In a successful business, things are going well on a regular basis. If someone were to tell you every time something good happened, you would have someone running into your office all the time, because good news makes your business run. In my opinion, a monthly review of results would be best. It’s easier to digest these results as a report, too. During the review of results, your achievements should be highlighted. Weekly meetings are another good place for everyone to discuss their recent achievements.”

What does this mean?

We all love to brag about what we do well, but there’s a time and place to do it. Your work will speak for itself if you’re bringing in the type of results your boss is looking for. Then, you can get on your podium and share your achievements when you present reports to your boss or allocate time for success stories at the end of a meeting.

8) All business-related topics are noteworthy.

Kranz doesn’t believe there are any topics that would hinder effective communication between an employee and his or her boss.

There’s nothing my team shouldn’t come to me with. We want to hear about how the team is working together and how your work environment is, so anything is open for discussion.”

What does this mean:

Speak to your boss about business topics that concern you, or any particular success-related stories. Communicating feedback on what is going on in your business environment is an effective way for your boss to see a full picture of the company from someone else’s perspective, so don’t hold back.

Communication Is a Two-Way Street

Effective communication with your boss starts with you. You need to approach it a certain way for the conversation to be as productive as possible, so you can minimize the divide between executive and individual contributor perceptions across companies. To learn more about the global state of marketing and sales industries, download the 2017 State of Inbound report today.

What are your strategies for communication effectively with your boss at work? Share with us in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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May

31

2017

7 Leadership Resources for Any Stage of Your Career

Published by in category Daily, Leadership, Management, Tactical | Comments are closed

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Learning some things in life is relatively straightforward. Take knitting, for example — that’s typically as simple as procuring some yarn and needles and searching for a how-to video on getting started. Sure, your work might look a little haphazard at first, but the steps are fairly intuitive.

Learning to lead others, on the other hand, isn’t so linear.

There’s always the option to pick up a leadership book or turn to articles on the topic to get started, but a start is all it will be. You’ve got to read, listen, ask questions, put things into practice, make mistakes, and course-correct — only then, you might be at a “good enough” level. New Call-to-action

But everyone has to start somewhere, and if you’re looking to embark on a leadership development path, you might also be looking for some of the best materials to help you along the journey. We’ve got you covered — below are some of our favorite podcasts, tools, tips, and resources to become a better leader.

7 Leadership Resources for Marketers

1) Podcasts

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 1.59.20 PM.pngSource: NPR

Depending on the day, one method of consuming information might be better than another. If you take the train into work and the ride is quieter than usual one morning, for example, it might be a great day to catch up on a leadership book. But if you drive, and traffic is particularly bad, it’s probably better (not to mention, safer) to listen to a podcast episode about leadership than to read a book about it.

That’s one of the reasons why we consistently keep a few leadership podcasts downloaded and ready to listen to. Here are three of our favorites:

TED Radio Hour

Around here, we love a good TED talk. But trying to pick just one out of volumes of valuable presentations is as tricky as trying to pick one thing to watch on Netflix, am I right? That’s what makes the TED Radio Hour podcast so valuable. It takes some of the most intriguing TED talk topics — like big data, making our work more meaningful, or even forgiveness — and builds episodes based on them.

The Growth Show

Hosted by HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson and CMO Kipp Bodnar, The Growth Show is an exploration of all things relating to business growth. Anderson and Bodnar take turns at the helm, welcoming guests to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of growth. From stories of epic failure to the even better recovery that followed it, Anderson and Bodnar interview guests who share some of the most intriguing organizational, cultural, conceptual, and team insights.

StartUp

As the name suggests, this product is a self-described “podcast about what it’s really like to get a business off the ground.” And no matter where you are in your career, there are still leadership lessons to be learned from entrepreneurs or beginners, especially if you need a back-to-basics reminder of how to get started. Plus, the topics — like balancing business and family life, or stories about inventors — are just plain interesting and provide solid fodder to get your wheels turning in the morning.

2) Public Speaking Help

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Public speaking isn’t exactly a requirement for being a strong leader, but as you progress in your career, it might become part of your job (think: presenting at large team meetings or to a board), and it’s a skill that can help set you apart from the pack.

But if public speaking sounds like a worse experience than undergoing a root canal, then there’s a chance you’ve wished for a formula to make it as simple as possible. That’s why we love speaking.io — it’s a near one-stop-shop for public speaking tips. Upon arriving at the site, it appears to be an unconventional resource collection for the five major steps of presenting:

  1. Plan out your talk.
  2. Design and build your slides.
  3. Prep for the big day.
  4. Deliver and do your thing.
  5. React and reflect on what just happened.

Plus, if you want newer, more detailed tips and information, the site also contains a blog with advice on things like using images, sharing presentations online, and dealing with nervousness.

3) Books (On the Stuff They Don’t Teach You in Business School)

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Sometimes, it feels like we have to master everything to be a leader. We have to learn how to manage projects, delegate tasks, and analyze outcomes. But then, there are the leadership lessons that don’t always get the biggest headlines, like learning to be empathetic, accountable, and how to embrace vulnerability.

That last one, while a scary word, is something that we’ve found some of the most exceptional leaders do. That’s why we love Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability,” she writes, “we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

This book, in particular, dives into years of research on why vulnerability can be an asset to leaders. After all, taking risks requires some degree of becoming vulnerable, and strong leaders know when to take calculated risks. But that doesn’t just apply to work — Brown’s work also explores how that vulnerability can be an advantage in other areas of life.

4) The Radical Candor Framework

Think about the hardest piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten. Chances are, it was tough to hear, but you were ultimately better off because of it.

That’s exactly what happened to Kim Scott. After an important presentation, Scott’s boss, Sheryl Sandberg — yes, the one who wrote Lean In — had some feedback. Harsh feedback. The kind of feedback that stings. But because Scott knew that Sandberg was coming from a compassionate place when giving the feedback, Scott accepted it, moved on, and became better.

Scott took this pivotal interaction and used it to develop a framework for giving better feedback at work — the kind that embraces brutal honesty delivered with profound empathy. It’s worthy advice for leaders at any point in their respective careers.

Fun fact: We once had the pleasure of hosting Kim Scott on The Growth Show. If you’re interested in hearing more about her perspective on leadership, check out her episode below.

5) Real-time Feedback

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Speaking of feedback, did that last resource make you crave receiving some yourself? After all, authentic, constructive criticism is an excellent supplement to the advice doled out by books, blogs, podcasts, and frameworks. Enter CareerLark: a Slack bot that helps you seek out on-the-fly “micro-feedback” on the skills you want to improve.

Here’s how it works. In the example provided by CareerLark’s product explanation, an employee wants to get feedback on his weekly analytics updates. Using the Slack bot, he can ping his boss to get real-time feedback on how he’s doing. She’ll then receive a message like this one:

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From there, Monica can either answer using one of the emojis provided, or send a more detailed response, as per below:

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Micro-feedback in real-time? Great for your skill development — and, it can provide your boss with good practice in providing concise commentary.

6) Advice From Real People

Sometimes, using a Slack bot to get advice just doesn’t cut it. We all need feedback from a real human being, and on occasion, it can be the most enlightening to get it from someone outside your company or industry.

So when you’re looking to step outside your “bubble” for input, here are a few apps that can help.

Real Talk

By The Learning Partnership, a Canadian advocacy organization for public education, the Real Talk App (available on iOS and Android) provides “unfiltered” advice from a broad range of professionals at various career stages — everyone from sound designers to freelance creatives. These individuals answer questions that many of us have as we begin to explore different work options, like whether or not advanced education is worth the money, or how you can make a career change.

Officehours

Sometimes, it can be tough to figure out who to turn to for advice. That’s what makes apps like Officehours so valuable — this one, in particular, helps you find an expert (or “advisor”) for 10 minutes of free one-on-one advice.

The advisors appear to hold a broad range of expertise, from design to entrepreneurship, data science and more. Check out the video below to learn more:

Mara Mentor

If you’re a budding entrepreneur struggling to find a mentor in your industry, check out this tool — it was designed to provide an “exchange of ideas, guidance, learning and connecting with like-minded people.”

Not only does Mara Mentor (available for iOS and Android) offer a platform for connecting professionals and entrepreneurs with mentors, but also, it provides industry news and a digital networking platform that connects you with other entrepreneurs to share knowledge and experiences. Plus, it’s global — so no matter where you are, you can connect with others for professional support.

7) Online Courses

We’ll admit that many of the sources on this list largely pertain to management, communication, and finding a mentor. But that’s not that only way to advance or make changes in your career. Sometimes, it’s about becoming really, really good at a certain thing that your job requires — or something that the job you want requires. And for that to happen, you just need to hunker down and learn it.

An online course can be a great way to do that. Finding the right class depends on the skill you want to develop, but here are a few places we recommend for getting started, especially when it comes to marketing-related skills.

HubSpot Academy

If you want a deep dive into some of the most important aspects of marketing today, check out the HubSpot Academy. One of the most popular resources available there is our free Inbound Certification.

Designlab

Want to improve or sharpen your design skills? Check out Designlab. You’ll be given real assignments to build your knowledge — and a mentor to help you through each one.

Codeacademy

More free stuff? You bet. In fact, you can learn to code for free with Codecademy, which is a particularly helpful resource if you learn best by doing — lessons are taught by way of both instruction and hands-on experience.

Lynda

Okay, so this one isn’t free — subscriptions start at $19.99/month — but if there’s a professional skill you want to advance, chances are, Lynda has a course for it. Created by LinkedIn, it offers classes in everything from Excel, to audio production, to software development.

What’s Next?

So, let’s say you’ve taken full advantage of the resources above. You’ve learned a lot and even gained some introspection. But if you’re still stuck, fear not — we’ve all been there.

If you’re at a loss for what kinds of skills you want to develop, or if you’ve realized that you’re not sure you even want to be a leader in your particular field, then there’s a chance you just might not be sure what to do next. That’s why we created The Next Five: a free assessment that can help you identify the next step in your career.

And because many of us dread the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” — or simply can’t answer it — this resource comes with even more processes to come up with a response on your own time. Because the only thing better than general, yet valuable leadership resources, are those tailored to your specific situation.

What are some of the most helpful leadership resources you’ve found? Let us know in the comments.

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May

26

2017

8 Signs of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Published by in category Daily, Leadership, Management | Comments are closed

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We write a lot about artificial intelligence here at HubSpot. You might be excited about it, or slightly concerned that AI will take your job — and then take over the world.

And while AI is important and interesting, I’m going to ask you to put a pin in that so we can talk about another type of intelligence: emotional intelligence.

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Emotional intelligence doesn’t involve bots or machine learning, but it still could have a huge impact on your job, your success, and your happiness at work. By now, we all know that success isn’t just about what you know — it’s about how you work with the people around you, too. And whether this involves networking, an inter-departmental project, or managing direct reports, other people will have a huge impact on if you get your next promotion, new job, or have opportunities presented to you.

In this post, we’ll run through a quick review of emotional intelligence — what it is, why it’s important, and how to be an emotionally intelligent leader at work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

The term was first defined in 1990 by two behavioral researchers named Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, and it was more broadly popularized by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

Emotional intelligence is defined as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”

So, what does that actually mean, in plain English?

Emotional intelligence, or EQ (a play on intelligence quotient, or IQ), refers to your ability to handle emotions — your own, and those of others. It’s the ability to recognize and understand your emotions, having control over them, and help others do the same. And as you can imagine, these people skills can be just as important to professional (and personal) success as technical skills.

In fact, there’s actually no correlation between a high level of cognitive intelligence (IQ) and a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ). Psychologist Daniel Goleman thinks that the measurement of IQ is too restrictive and doesn’t accurately reflect if an individual will be successful, in their career or life in general.

Goleman and Dr. Richard Boyatzis created a framework of behavioral qualities that demonstrate EQ. In this post, we’ll explore 10 of these behaviors that leaders can use to show EQ and foster it in their teams.

8 Qualities That Demonstrate Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

1) Adaptability

Are you flexible to changes on your team and within your organization? Are you resilient when confronted with conflict and difficulty? Are you able to quickly manage the expectations and needs of both the people you report to and the direct reports on your team?

Adaptability is a key trait of emotionally intelligent leaders. Whether you’re dealing with a bad month of metrics, an interpersonal conflict between team members, or a company crisis that requires an all hands response, leaders need to be able to quickly react and respond to new and changing information. They also need to be able to respond to change with compassion and diplomacy — even if the changes might not be to their preference. Grudges, overly emotional reactions, and negative one-off complaints are unproductive, can contribute to low morale, and are generally signs of low EQ.

Leaders should set examples for emotionally intelligent adaptability by encouraging teams to present constructive feedback in team meetings or 1:1s. Leaders should also acknowledge pain points that come with change and encourage team members to brainstorm solutions and techniques for quick recovery.

2) Optimism

Are you able to motivate team members and people around you in the workplace? Can you change the mood with a joke or positive outlook on a tough situation? Are you able to help someone stuck in a negative mindset see a different perspective?

Just like adaptability, optimism is critical for leaders to motivate and uplift a team during tough times at work. Now, optimism doesn’t mean you’re relentlessly positive, no matter what. It means you can see the bigger picture of a difficult situation or bad mood to get perspective and keep moving forward — instead of getting bogged down in negativity.

Leaders should encourage team members to look at all sides of a problem to gain perspective, come up with creative solutions to challenges, and help point it out for them when they can’t do it themselves.

3) Initiative

Do you try to identify and solve problems before they arise? Do you volunteer to make things better for your peers and your team? Do you always follow up on conflicts and questions brought to you by team members? Do you not only complete the asks of your role, but look for ways to get even better results?

The ability — and eagerness — to take initiative is another sign of emotional intelligence in leadership. In fact, doing the bare minimum can sometimes be perceived as selfish — even if you are technically getting your job done every day.

Leaders with a high EQ seek out ways to improve and excel — and that includes helping team members take initiative, too. Leaders should identify and cultivate strengths in their team members and help them get to the point where they’re confident and capable enough to take initiative, too. Other examples include volunteering to take on additional work, team projects, or simply helping others complete tasks in the office.

4) Conflict Resolution

Do you moderate interpersonal conflict discretely and effectively? Do you help team members navigate disagreement or clashing priorities in a way that’s respectful to everyone involved? Do you advocate for your team to make sure members feel supported and heard?

Let’s face it — if you work on a team, conflict is bound to happen, even among the closest of colleagues. When that happens, leaders have to help come to solutions that make everyone involved feel heard, respected, and resolved.

Emotionally intelligent leaders should provide team members with plenty of opportunities to talk — in person, via phone or video call, or as a team — to resolve issues and air challenges before they devolve into unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Leaders should empower team members with conflict solutions, new processes, and more of that adaptability to prevent future problems before they arise. And sometimes, the greatest conflict resolution a leader can offer is letting a team member vent and get a problem off their chest.

5) Professional Development

Do you encourage team members to learn and cultivate new skills? Do you help team members identify strengths and target areas of improvement? Do you deliver constructive and actionable feedback? And when the time comes, do you advocate for team members to seek new opportunities, even if those opportunities aren’t working with you anymore?

As Saturday Night Live writer and actor Tina Fey once said, “in most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” She’s obviously a very emotionally intelligent leader, and we encourage leaders to take it a step further than that for best results.

Hire talented people and develop their skills and talents so they’re the best they can be — even if that potentially means losing them as a team member. Emotionally intelligent leaders can prioritize the development of others over their own desire to have the best team possible. These leaders should help employees identify talents, improve on strengths and weaknesses, and help team members take on new opportunities they might not without a leader’s encouragement.

6) Empathy

Do you put yourself in teammates’ shoes when addressing challenges and problems with them? Do you acknowledge others’ feelings and opinions and respond to them? Do you share your own emotions and worries with team members to help them feel understood?

Effective leaders must be empathetic in order to also be emotionally intelligent. Empathy means not just listening to team members, but making them feel heard and understood, too. Leaders should constantly seek to understand the perspective of their team members to effectively communicate changes, feedback, and news — both good and bad.

Empathetic leaders can deliver feedback in team members’ preferred method of communication, tailor meetings and communication according to different personalities and styles, and adapt their leadership style to what’s most effective for motivating and helping the larger group.

7) Trustworthiness

Do teammates confide in you? Do you know when to keep information confidential, and when to escalate it through the proper channels? Do teammates feel comfortable bringing concerns to you when they arise?

Trust isn’t just about keeping secrets your team members confide in you — it’s also about creating an environment of mutual trust where team members feel supported and comfortable.

Emotionally intelligent leaders should provide team members with multiple avenues for providing feedback, airing grievances, and voicing questions or concerns — without feeling vulnerable or wrong for doing so. They should encourage team members to support and rely on each other, work collaboratively, and share knowledge and skills for better team outcomes.

8) Self-Reflection

Do you analyze your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement on a regular basis? Do you engage with your direct reports and your supervisors to get 360-degree professional feedback? Do you set monthly, quarterly, or annual goals for improvement and personal development?

In addition to all of the above, one of the most meaningful ways leaders can cultivate their emotional intelligence to drive better team outcomes is to pause and reflect on themselves. It can be challenging to critique yourself, which is where collaborative feedback comes in. Emotionally intelligent leaders constantly seek feedback from peers and other leaders to analyze and strategize how to constantly improve — in meetings, 1:1s, and by seeking to learn from other sources.

These are only eight examples of emotional intelligence in leadership, but focusing on these traits will help leaders cultivate emotional intelligence in team members to help them be as productive and successful as possible. For more information on improving and cultivating emotional intelligence in leadership, download HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah’s ebook here.

What signs of emotional intelligence do you value? Share with us in the comments below.

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May

16

2017

Introverts vs. Extroverts: Leadership Challenges & How to Solve Them

Published by in category Daily, Leadership, Management | Comments are closed

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There are a variety of tests and surveys you can take to learn about your personality traits and assess your strengths and weaknesses as they fit in the workplace. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the DiSC Profile, and the Big Five are a few that come to mind — we even use DiSC here at HubSpot.

These tests and their subsequent results often hinge upon the different traits and habits of introverts versus extroverts. 

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These personality traits are more commonly associated with your personal life, but introversion and extroversion impact how you interact with everyone — including your coworkers. In fact, identifying whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert could help you be a better leader, too. 

All leaders have their own distinctive styles and methods for motivating and empowering teams, and while none of them are right or wrong, some can be adjusted to make team work environments as productive and successful as possible. In this post, we’ll dive into the exact differences between introverts and extroverts, and how they can solve common leadership challenges their personality types might face.

Introvert vs. Extrovert Definitions

Introverts are people who gain and recharge mental energy by being in quieter, less stimulating environments. Extroverts are the opposite: They gain and recharge their energy by being around other people in more stimulating environments.

Quiet Revolution co-founder and author Susan Cain says introverts “listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation.” She described the difference between introversion and extroversion using an example: After spending three hours at a friend’s birthday party, would you be more inclined to go home for the night and decompress, or keep the party going? The science behind the difference between introverts and extroverts lies in our nervous systems. One big difference has to do with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that induces reward-seeking behavior. When dopamine production increases in your brain, both introverts and extroverts become more talkative and more alert to people in their surroundings. And as it turns out, dopamine is more active in the brains of extroverts. For introverts, acetylcholine is the preferred neurotransmitter — one that gives people pleasure when they reflect inward and take a lot of time to think deeply or focus intensely on just one thing.

So, introverts aren’t necessarily shy, and extroverts aren’t necessarily party animals — the different types simply derive more pleasure from different levels of external stimuli. (And it’s important to note that there’s a spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and it’s possible to be an ambivert — a person who has habits and tendencies of both introverts and extroverts.)

Challenges can arise in the workplace because individuals with extroverted tendencies — such as a willingness to speak up — might be promoted first or get more attention from executives — especially in fast-paced business environments. But there are challenges that can come up when introverts are leaders, too.

How Introverted Leaders Can Improve

The Challenge: 

I asked Cain about her thoughts on how introversion can hinder leaders at this year’s Simmons Leadership Conference. “For introverted leaders, the temptation is to keep their heads down and focused; the challenge can be to interact with their teams as frequently and enthusiastically as their team members would like.”

The Solution:

Introverted leaders should determine effective ways to interact and communicate with their team members that are comfortable for both introverts and extroverts. Some suggestions include:

  1. Schedule weekly 1:1 meetings with team members so you can prepare in advance for giving feedback and discussing work.
  2. Host “Office Hours” for team members who want to chat in person outside of regularly scheduled meetings.
  3. Overcommunicate instructions and contextual information you might not share as openly in a team meeting.
  4. Use communication and team collaboration tools — like Slack, Asana, and Trello — to keep avenues of communication about ongoing projects and initiatives open without having to hold a meeting.
  5. Schedule meetings with a clear agenda for all team members invited.
  6. Encourage team members (and yourself) to prepare for team meetings in advance so everyone can contribute to the discussion. Introverts might need more time to read, write, and prepare notes for a meeting to feel empowered to speak on the fly, so encourage your team to read any pre-meeting materials and set aside time to prepare.
  7. Determine how different team members like to give and receive feedback — and whether it’s in person or via email, challenge yourself to tailor your feedback to its recipient.
  8. Explicitly communicate praise, either in person or via email, so team members feel appreciated. Where extroverts might prefer to be praised in a team meeting, introverts might prefer to receive praise in a 1:1 meeting.

How Extroverted Leaders Can Improve

The Challenge:

Cain also reflected that extroverted leaders can encounter obstacles of their own. “For extroverted leaders, the challenge is to let other people contribute ideas,” Cain says. “A study by Wharton professor Adam Grant found that introverted leaders of proactive teams produced better results than extroverted leaders did because they were more likely to encourage others’ input, while extroverted leaders were more apt to put their own stamp on things.”

The Solution:

Extroverted leaders need to balance different personalities on their team to make sure they motivate and encourage their team to excel without being so enthusiastic that they shut others down. Some ideas include:

  1. Host meetings that incorporate aspects that let both introverts and extroverts shine. For example, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos starts all meetings with the group silently reading prep materials together for the first 20-30 minutes. Then, the meeting evolves into a discussion without a set agenda. These two pieces let both groups prepare in the manner most comfortable for them.
  2. Rethink brainstorming. As it turns out, brainstorming alone can produce a greater quantity of good ideas than discussing in a group. Cain suggests a hybrid brainstorm wherein participants come up with ideas alone and come together in a meeting to share and improve upon them.
  3. Keep meetings as small as possible so everyone feels comfortable speaking up.
  4. Allow team members to prepare as much as possible. And if that’s not possible, offer the opportunity to provide feedback and additional thoughts in a follow-up meeting or email.
  5. Listen twice as much as you speak in meetings to avoid dominating the conversation.
  6. Identify visibility opportunities for team members that work for their personality types.
  7. Champion and advocate for more introverted employees who might not identify those opportunities as readily.
  8. Challenge introverted employees to practice skills they’re not as comfortable with in private settings. Encourage extroverted employees to practice those skills in a meeting or a more visible setting.

Listen Up

The most valuable leadership advice we can offer, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, is to be honest about your leadership style. Don’t be afraid to openly and transparently tell your team members about your personality traits. Tell them about your style, they’ll tell you about theirs, and you can all work together to communicate and work effectively.

For more ideas for making the workplace conducive to introverts’ and extroverts’ success, check out more leadership content on ThinkGrowth.org, our Medium publication.

What are your suggestions for making the workplace inclusive for all personality types? Share with us in the comments below.

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Apr

18

2017

An Introduction to Data Visualization: How to Create Compelling Charts & Graphs [Ebook]

Published by in category analytics, Daily, Design, Leadership | Comments are closed

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Your data is only as good as your ability to understand and communicate it. Effective marketers aren’t only able to understand and analyze the numbers, but also to effecticely communicate the story behind those numbers.

The best way to tell a story with your data is by visualizing it using a chart or graph. Visualizing your data helps you uncover patterns, correlations, and outliers, communicate insights to your boss, your team, or your company, and make smart, data-backed decisions.

Designing charts and graphs may seem intimidating — especially to folks who aren’t designers by trade. But the good news is, you don’t need a PhD in statistics to crack the data visualization code. We’ve created a new guide to help you: An Introduction to Data Visualization: How to Design Compelling Charts & Graphs That Are Easy to Understand.

This guide will walk through:

  • What data visualization is and why it’s important;
  • When to use the different data types, data relationships, and chart types;
  • How to visualize your data effectively;
  • The best data visualization tools.

Ready to learn how to analyze, visualize, and communicate your data better? Download our free introductory ebook on data visualization and use what you learned to run better experiments, create better presentations, and make better business decisions.

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Oct

20

2016

Are You a Good Boss? [Flowchart]

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Earlier this year, I wrote about a little thing called “imposter syndrome.” It refers to the feeling we get when, no matter how much we’ve achieved, we feel like we don’t belong or don’t deserve to be in a position of leadership.

About 70% of us will experience it at some point, especially the bosses among us. No wonder why so many of us constantly ask if we stack up. And how do you measure that, anyway?

It turns out, we’re probably overthinking it. Sometimes, a simple question-and-answer flowchart can help us with that introspection, and answer the question, “Am I a good boss?”

You’re in luck. The folks over at Headway Capital have created such a flowchart, chock full of important questions to ask about your leadership style, priorities, and more. Check out the infographic below to see how you measure up as a boss — and where there might be room for improvement. (P.S. Love infographics but struggle with design? Download our free infographic templates here).


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Oct

7

2016

How to Find a Great Mentor at Any Stage of Your Career

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Have you ever had your mind blown by a little kid’s wisdom?

More often than not, they tend to have surprisingly astute yet simple observations in life. (Case in point — noting to my Dad, at age two, that my Mom “keeps the money in her purse” when I was told he couldn’t buy a toy I wanted.)

While it might be a stretch to call kids our mentors, the occasional profoundness of children reminds us that youth doesn’t always preclude wisdom. And the same goes for mentorship. It doesn’t have to be limited to kids, teens, and people early in their careers. As we progress in life, that guidance shouldn’t disappear — there isn’t an age that deems us unfit to be mentored. Download our leadership guide for actionable advice & guidelines from  HubSpot's Dharmesh Shah. 

But when it comes to being mentored later in our careers, many of us aren’t sure where to begin. There are many ways to go about finding a mentor at any age, though, and we’re here to suggest a few. (And to learn more about finding a marketing mentor, check out these tips from HubSpot Academy.)

How to Find a Mentor at Any Stage of Your Career

1) Ditch your preconceived notions of experience.

We tend to believe that mentors are supposed to be older, wiser, and more experienced. Today, that logic is a bit flawed — we live in a time when being professionally experienced means many things.

Some younger generations are more experienced in jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago. And then there are those who are more advanced and know the broad spectrum of certain career paths. There’s an upside to learning and teaching both. As it turns out, we all need guidance.

New York Times assignment editor Phyllis Korkki recently covered this phenomenon, describing how, in her mid-50s, her 27-year-old Social Strategy Editor made her better at her job. In an act of reverse mentorship, the younger colleague taught Korkki how to use Snap chat, which she says, “stretched me as a journalist and a person.”

I, too, was hesitant to jump of the Snapchat train at first. But when I started this job and befriended one of my slightly younger colleagues — one of whom brilliantly explains Snapchat here — I decided that it might be a good idea to figure it out. And lucky for me, she was more than happy to help.

That wasn’t all my colleague taught me, though. I’ve actually learned a lot from her in just a few short months — including how to toss any age- or experience-related connotations around mentorship away.

2) Know that mentorship goes both ways.

When I asked my colleague, Staff Writer Aja Frost, about her thoughts on being a mentee at any point in life, she provided some interesting insights.

“I think everyone should simultaneously seek mentorship and give it,” she told me. “Being both makes you better at both. If you know the type of mentorship you like to accept, you can also dole out that type.”

Korkki touches on this concept, noting that the only thing that could have improved the experience was if she, too, had mentored her younger colleague. It wasn’t until she had grasped Snapchat well enough to take over the New York Times account for a day that she asked her mentor, “What do I have to offer?”

So really, the best mentorships are balanced. It can be hard to ask for help, and to remember to offer it in return. But don’t hesitate to surface your own strengths and offer guidance in return — that “give and take” approach helps both parties see the value in the relationship. It becomes clear that that the investment of time is worthwhile.

Not to mention, helping someone out makes you feel good. As my colleague Adrienne Ober put it, “Being a mentor can be a huge boost to your own confidence. When people ask me questions, I go, ‘Oh, wow. You want to know what I think?”

3) Leverage your own network.

A few years ago, I was in the midst of a very difficult career decision and didn’t know who to ask for advice. It wasn’t until several weeks that I realized I had an entire network — former clients, supervisors, and colleagues — to call upon for mentorship. Why hadn’t I turned to them earlier?

It turns out that most of us suffer from something called inattentional blindness, which is essentially the psychological term for not being able to see what’s right in front of us, so to speak. So when we’re particularly engaged in a decision or situation that’s occupying most of our time, inattentional blindness could explain why we miss helpful resources that are actually quite readily accessible — like our own respective networks.

Once you take stock of your network, you might be surprised how well-received a request for advice can be. And unless you’ve burned every professional bridge you’ve ever known, there’s likely someone in your life whose advice you can seek. They might even be able to introduce you to someone in their network that fits your criteria.

4) Know what it is that you need.

When seeking a mentor, it’s important that you’re (at the very least) prepared to answer one pivotal question: “So, what do you want?”

Be sure to have some goals in mind when you seek out this kind of guidance. Knowing that will achieve two things — getting the information you need, and being able to seek out the right kind of mentor.

Take my above example of when I sought mentorship within my own network to help with a difficult decision — to quit a bad job without having another one lined up. I didn’t want to be shut down with a hard “no.” But I also didn’t want a quick, impractical “yes.” I needed someone who could pragmatically walk through the pros and cons, and evaluate options that I hadn’t thought of. (There it is again — inattentional blindness.)

When you look for a mentor, make sure you have a comprehensive purpose in mind. Think of the difficult questions you haven’t been able to ask. Having those criteria in mind will help you find the right person to provide the guidance you need.

5) Attach the right parameters to “success.”

In addition to experienced, wise, and older, we tend to think of the best mentors as successful. But there’s a problem — like “experience,” “success” today take s many different forms.

Our reasons for seeking advice are diverse, and with them come varied signs of success. Some traditional metrics are outdated — having great wealth, finding a spouse, and settling down in a big house isn’t everyone’s idea of accomplishment. In fact, most people value happiness at work over a big salary — almost 70% would take a pay cut for a job that they were passionate about.

Maybe that’s what you need in a mentor — someone who has taken risks and can help make yours more calculated. Or maybe you’re not sure what it is that’s going to make you happy, and need someone to objectively work that out.

The point is, don’t discount a potential mentor simply because his or her life doesn’t fit the mold of what’s stereotypically deemed successful. In fact, if someone is truly happy at work — which only 38% of people say they are — that, to me, is a sign of success.

It’s Your Turn.

Ready to get out there and start building these valuable relationships? You’ve got this. But remember, mentorship is just that — a relationship.

Show gratitude for what your mentor brings to the table. But don’t ignore what you have to offer — ask how you can be of service, too. Even if you’re an expert on a given topic, chances are, you have something you can teach.

And don’t forget to pay it forward. Even if there isn’t an occasion when your mentor asks you for help, plenty of others could use it. That could be anyone — not just other professionals. Check out the National Mentoring Partnership to learn how to work with kids at an earlier stage.

How did you meet your best mentors? Let us know in the comments.

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Sep

26

2016

How to Get People to Actually Listen to You

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By now, you may have heard of a musical called Hamilton.

In you haven’t, here’s a rundown: Since its Broadway debut in August 2015, people can’t get enough of it. They’re paying upwards of $500 for crappy seats, and close to $3,000 for good ones. It won a Pulitzer, a Grammy and 11 Tony Awards. Its composer and original star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is now a celebrity.

In other words: People are listening to this stuff.

Seeing the way Hamilton captivated such massive audiences — in less than a year — fascinates me. How the heck did this thing blow up?

(Psst. If you’re eager for some Hamilton action, Leslie Odom Jr. — a star from the original cast — is performing at INBOUND this year.)

Watching the progress and near-instant success of Hamilton is really a lesson in why people listen — not just to a hit musical, but to a person, a podcast, or anything, really. A lot can be learned by looking into those reasons, especially for marketers. To what and whom do people listen? Why? And how can we get them to listen to us? 

To answer those questions, we did some research on the listening process, our motivations for listening, and more.

The Listening Process

To listen, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to hear what someone has said and understand that it is serious, important, or true.”

Listening helps us to satisfy different physiological goalsWe listen to alter our moods, stay alert, and figure stuff out. In humans, that’s been the case for pretty much as long as we’ve been in existence.

The listening process starts when we receive auditory stimuli. Then, our brains have to interpret that stimulus. That’s enhanced by other senses — like sight — which help us better interpret what we’re hearing.

Then, once we receive and interpret auditory signals, we follow a series of steps that consist of recalling, evaluating, and responding to the information we consume: 

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Source: Matthew Edward Dyson

It’s that third step in the entire process — recalling — that might be the most important one for marketers. Numerous studies have discovered how listening triggers a widespread network of activity throughout the entire brain. That activity is what so strongly links auditory stimuli to memory.

That’s particularly true of music: Research has revealed a partial restoration of memory in Alzheimer’s patients upon hearing their favorite music. In other words, we know that listening heavily correlates with memory, which helps explain the mjor success of something like Hamilton — it’s a musical theatre production, which really epitomizes the intersection of auditory and visual stimuli.

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Source: Carina Zimmerman

When people talk it up, they’re actually sharing a story about their memories of seeing it. And no matter what happens to our attention spans, we still seem to love a good story.

That comes back around to what we do as marketers, really. We share the stories of and about our brands in a way that will get people to — you guessed it — listen.

The Art of Getting People to Listen

Earlier this year, my colleague, Lindsay Kolowich, put together a post on how to make a speech memorable. The infographic touched on a few guidelines that can be applied to, well, pretty much anything that you want someone to listen to:

  • Start strong
  • Make it informative and interesting
  • Think of your audience

Aha! Your audience — remember them? Knowing your audience is going to help you create the content they want to listen to, but that also requires an understanding of their motivations for listening. 

And in a modern context, our motivation to listen runs a bit deeper, especially when it’s something we don’t have to hear. We’re not listening in survival mode as much as we did in infancy or ancient times — we now have the luxury of electing to listen to most things.

So let’s explore some generally understood, non-survival motivations for listening these days. I’ll use our old friend Hamilton to put those things in context — it shows how people’s reasons for listening have been successfully put into practice.

4 Motivations for Listening (and How to Tap Into Them)

1) They’re familiar with the person or the work.

Hamilton’s earliest audiences may have tuned in because they knew about Miranda’s previous work. Perhaps they were fans of In the Heights, or had seen one of his smaller performances. Either way, it got them to come back and listen to him again.

Some people think of that as the mere-exposure effect: A psychological principle that states we prefer the things that are familiar to us.

Key takeaway: When you’re trying to figure out how to get someone to listen to you, start by tapping the folks who already know you — the ones whose attention you already have. At HubSpot, we call those folks evangelists: The people who advocate for your brand. If you want to expand your reach, it’s important to know who your evangelists are, and how to keep them motivated (which you can learn more about here).

2) They share values with what or whom they’re listening to.

Even if someone wasn’t familiar with Miranda’s work, if they had the basic context of Hamilton — a hip-hop musical about a historical figure — that might have been enough to get them to listen. Maybe that person just likes hip-hop. Or musicals. Or history.

When you isolate the different components of what you’re trying to market, that gives you more options to pique people’s interests. I’ll use myself as an example — while I’m the type of person for whom The History Channel quickly cures insomnia, I will jump at the chance to listen to some great rap music. Therefore: A rap about history? Okay, I’ll bite.

Key takeaway: Break your message or story down into different elements that people might actually want to listen to. That can help to draw in a diversified audience, by pitching these different pieces to the people who like them the most. 

3) Someone told them to.

I have to wonder how many people bought tickets to see Hamilton, or even first listened to its soundtrack, because so many people recommended it. We call that social proof: the theory that people will adopt the beliefs or actions of a group of people they like or trust.

In his book Contagious, Author Jonah Berger found that the content receiving the most word-of-mouth contained six essential qualities: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories.  

See that? “Stories.” “Emotion.” “Social.” Those are the qualities that get people to keep listening, and get the people who they share it with to listen, too.

Key takeaway: Give your current audience the right incentive to listen and share. illustrate your message through an emotional story. Teach people something they’ll want to pass on to their coworkers or friends. In short: Position your message in a way that makes it hard not to end up telling someone else about it. 

4) They think that what they’re listening to will be good.

And while you can’t please everyone, you can do your best to make sure that you’re giving them something of quality. Remember — make it informative and interesting, but also make it true to yourself and your brand.

After all, that worked for Lin-Manuel Miranda. He took the things that fascinated him — musical composition, hip hop, and the life of Alexander Hamilton — and turned it into a phenomenon that actually got and held people’s attention.

Key takeaway: Find out what matters to you, and use what we’ve covered here today to make it matter to others.  

Amazing things happen when people listen. Now, you have the tools to get them there.

What are your best tips for catching the attention of an audience? Share them with us in the comments below. 

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Sep

2

2016

6 Negotiation Strategies Every Marketer Should Know

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There’s a reason why we love TV courtroom dramas. Beyond the shocking objections and confessions, it seems like there’s constant screentime for strong, powerful arguments.

As marketers, that last part is especially exciting. Whether we know it or not, we are unabashed nerds for all things negotiation — and it’s a skill that all of us should master.

That could be why we’re drawn to a well-written, televised version of a compelling argument. We love seeing people making a case for what they believe in, and wish we could do it as well ourselves, like when we’re trying to negotiate a budget allocation or a project.

But with the right strategies and skills, you can learn to negotiate. It’s practical, valuable knowledge that can be applied almost anywhere — especially in the marketing realm.

Why Do Marketers Need to Negotiate?

When I speak with marketers, it seems like there’s always something that has to be negotiated. A lot of the time, it’s the allocation of resources — budget, new hires, or time.

There are other marketing-specific times when negotiation is necessary, though. Maybe you’re working out a co-marketing agreement. Or maybe you’re trying to make a case for your own ideas.

Regardless, being prepared for these conversations is key. A big part of that is confidence — after all, 19% of folks don’t negotiate because they’re afraid of looking too pushy. We get it. Negotiating is kind of scary, especially when you’re new to it.

But arriving to these discussions with the right expectations and information can make them a little less intimidating. We picked six techniques that can be applied in a broad range of negotiations — at work, or wherever else.

6 Negotiation Techniques Every Marketer Should Know

1) Focus on interests, not positions.

In the context of negotiation, there’s a big difference between focusing on interests and focusing on positions. While interests refer to an outcome that will benefit you, positions refer to your stance on a particular issue.

Co-marketing, as we noted above, is a place where this concept plays out quite a bit. Let’s say a small business is trying to partner with one that has a larger reach.

  • The smaller company might think, “We want our names attached to yours.”
  • The larger might say, “Well, we already reach the same audience. What’s in it for us?”

Those are the positions of each company: “You should partner with us,” versus “We don’t need you.”

That’s where the smaller company has to think about the underlying interests of the larger one and how they might, in fact, need each other. 

“Larger companies may have a large reach, but what do they not have?” asks HubSpot’s Manager of Content Marketing Strategy, Lisa Toner. “Do they not have resources to create really great content for their audience?”

That could be an interest of the larger business: Gaining resources to create things like compelling design or apps. “It’s all about the pitch, and if you can offer an experience [your opponent] or their customers would welcome,” Toner says, “without them having to do the work.”

But determining these interests requires research and creativity, Toner says. And she’s not alone — in the book Negotiating Rationally, Max H. Bazerman and Margaret A. Neale note that “creative solutions can be found by redefining the conflict for each side, identifying their underlying interests, and brainstorming for a wide variety of potential solutions.”

So while your opponent might have a different position on the surface, you might actually have interests in common. Knowing what those are can help you frame the conversation in a way that sets you both up for success.

2) Have “if-then” scenarios — and a backup plan.

When you enter a negotiation, it’s valuable to have different scenarios and alternatives in mind. In business school, we were taught to frame these with an “If-Then Matrix”: A table with rows of “if”s — the things we wanted, but the opponent might say no to. Those were followed by columns of “then”s — the items that would become non-negotiable if the client refused the “if.”

Having options in mind can help to mitigate some of the fear that comes with negotiating. For one, it clarifies your priorities: A recent survey showed that 56% of women won’t negotiate a job offer because they don’t know what to ask for, which implies that a lot of people — male and female — haven’t considered what’s most important to them.

Maybe work-life balance matters more to you than salary. In that case, if your employer says no to your payment requirements, then flexible hours might become non-negotiable.

IfThenNegotiationMatrix.png

Do this with all of the “if”s that matter most to you. If flexible hours are also met with resistance, then what will your sticking points be?

And that’s where we also need to consider the BATNA — or, best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are for a negotiation, you might not reach an agreement. Then what? 

You’ll need to know the answer to that question before you even enter the conversation — that’s your BATNA. In fact, have multiple alternatives in mind — the more options you have, the less likely you are to feel completely helpless if your negotiation results in a stalemate.

An “If-Then” matrix can be helpful here, too. Know which factors will be at play if you don’t reach an agreement, and what the implications will be for your customers, your company, your team, and yourself. Don’t focus on defeat — focus on what you can do, and the actionable items that come with it. 

Remember: Negotiation isn’t an all-or-nothing process. Think about your interests, then determine your options based on the ones that are most important to you.

3) Use creativity to your advantage.

When it comes to negotiation, creativity is key. 

In one study of MBA students, participants were divided into two groups for different workshops — one that focused on systematic problem solving, and the other on solutions that directed students to “have fun,” “refrain from criticizing your ideas,” and “look for new possibilities.”

Each group then had negotiate a budget allocation. The students that underwent the creative training — the one that emphasized unconventional ideas and outcomes — executed the task better than the one that went through a more traditional workshop.

Studies like that show the value of creativity in generating unique alternative solutions and possibilities, and that is a lesson that you should think about when creating your negotiation agenda. You see, if an agenda resembles an itemized list with strict topics like budget and personnel, it tends to put the focus on positions, like “I need 35% of the budget,” or “I need 10 employees reallocated to our team.” But it doesn’t address why those needs exist — the interests behind them.

To combat that, try to focus on more open-ended things like goals and concerns. In that case, you’re leading with the why — the underlying interests that are at the root of each side’s position.

Maybe your opponent is concerned that her team can’t handle its growing workload, and that’s why she wants to add 10 people. With that perspective, her interest isn’t really about personnel allocation, as much as it’s about preventing her employees from burning out. That opens the door to discussing more creative solutions.  

4) Think about what matters most to your opponent.

I know what you’re thinking. “We know. Focus on interests. We get it!”

It’s true. Understanding your opponent’s priorities can more quickly uncover those underlying interests that I keep harping at. And yes — they’ll also help you align their interests with yours, and determine mutually beneficial outcomes.

But thinking about what matters most to your opponent can also give you an idea of what kind of questions he might ask. And you can prepare responses for those questions, gathering the data to support your answers in advance.

That will also help you figure out which questions you want to ask during the negotiation. When my colleague, Juliana Nicholson, was writing an ebook, she really wanted to include a certain organization as a case study. But they were hesitant to be featured, she said, because they were “very sensitive to how we framed them.”

At the same time, she told me, they “really wanted the exposure.” Knowing that was important to them helped Nicholson figure out the best questions to put them at ease, and gave them a sense of control in the process — questions like, “Can we use your real name and logo, so that we can link back to your site and drive traffic there?”

Notice how she cited a benefit in her question. She was asking for permission to do something — to use real identifiers of the organization, instead of a pseudonym — while immediately noting the positive outcomes of doing so.

And by posing it as a question, instead of stating it as a fact — “Doing X will result in Y” — Nicholson gave her opponent a sense of control over the process. Because she knew how much that mattered to them, she was able to phrase her questions in a way that addressed their interests in both control and exposure.

So don’t be afraid to relinquish a little bit of jurisdiction during a negotiation, especially when it comes to your opponent’s priorities.

5) Understand cultural elements — and how other cultures negotiate.

When you enter a negotiation, you’ll want to set the stage for a positive, proactive discussion. It goes without saying, then, that you probably don’t want to offend your opponent.

But accidentally offending your counterparts might be easier than you’d expect, especially if you’re negotiating with international peers. And that’s becoming more and more likely in business. HubSpot, for example, has offices in five different countries — that definitely shapes the way we do business.

It wouldn’t hurt to brush up on the business etiquette of your opponent’s native country. Here are some categories to consider when preparing for an international negotiation.

Physical Cues

In researching other cultures, I’ve learned that there are things I do naturally and unconsciously — like elaborately moving my arms when I talk — that would offend my colleagues in other countries. So in addition to doing my intellectual homework, I would have to physically prepare for a negotiation for my Chinese counterparts, and practice sitting still during a conversation.

My colleague, Leslie Ye, breaks down some do’s and don’ts on physical behavior in each country here

Silence

In the U.S., we often joke about the discomfort of an awkward silence. So it makes sense that other cultures — like Japan — use silence with the “hope the other side will speak,” writes University of Hawaii Professor John Barkai, and end up revealing something valuable, for the sake of saying anything at all.

But instead of letting the silence get awkward, use it to reflect. And if you do decide to speak first, take advantage of the quiet to think carefully about what you’re going to say.

Punctuality

Being on time is one of those things that starkly varies according to country. Just look at this guide to international business etiquette from my colleague, Lindsay Kolowich — how many countries have punctuality listed as important?

It’s important to know when you’ll be expected to be on time, and when you can anticipate the opposite from your counterpart. In France, for example, “you’re considered ‘on time’ if you’re 10 minutes late,” writes Kolowich.

Knowing how each culture treats timeliness will help you plan for and keep your negotiation efficient — and leave out the element of surprise if your guests arrive later than the scheduled start time.

6) Prepare your team.

You are so totally prepared for this negotiation. Great! What about the people sitting next to you at the table?

Even if you’re the one doing all of the talking, prepare any colleagues who will be present for the negotiation. Transparency is crucial here — your team should be briefed on any information that might arise during the negotiation, and privy to the same cultural and behavioral context that you’ve researched.

When your team has information, it gives them the opportunity to add their own valuable insights. When we become deeply ingrained in an issue, it can be difficult to look at it objectively. So make sure your team is equipped with the same armory you have — their perspective of it is an asset.

When it comes to preparing for any meeting, there are a few basic things you can do to prepare your team that also apply here.

  • Set clear ground rules: Make sure your team actually understands what the problem is here, and what the most desired proposed solutions are. Also make sure they know when it’s okay to contribute to the discussion, and what they should avoid bringing up.
  • Discuss non-negotiables: Your colleagues should be aware of the If-Thens. Prepare them with a list of things for which your side is absolutely unable to compromise — and let them know how to handle those objections.
  • Let them ask questions: Now is the time to clear up any uncertainties. If your team is caught off-guard, it will probably show. That can make your side look unprepared, which lends power to your opponent.

Ready to get started?

If you do all of these fabulous things to prepare — homework, research, introspection, and planning for less-than-desirable outcomes — then please, feel good about the conversation you’re about to have. We have a tendency to expect the worst (I know I do, anyway), and sometimes, numbers are the only thing that make us feel better.

So know this:

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Negotiating is kind of scary. But even if the worst case scenario actually plays out, by following these steps, you’ll be covered with a backup plan.

You’ve got this. And we’re always here to help as much as we can. Do you have a negotiation question, or story? Share it in the comments.

Marketing Ideas to Generate Business

Sep

2

2016

Are You Actually a Good Listener? [Flowchart]

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When you listen to someone speak, are you really listening to them … or are you listening to the voice in your head?

Hearing someone and listening to someone are two very different things. It’s all too common for people to wait for their turn to speak or think about what to say next instead of truly listening to someone. 

But being a good listener is a sign of emotional intelligence and social awareness. It means really, truly paying attention to what people are saying — and it’s a skill that’ll set you apart in both your professional and personal life. The good news is, becoming a good listener isn’t all that difficult — it just takes some practice (and self-awareness).

So, what do you think: Are you really a good listener? Quiz yourself by following the flowchart below from CT Business Travel. Then, keep reading for nine helpful tips for improving your listening skills.

good-listener-infographic.png

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Aug

16

2016

How to Become a Respected Influencer in Your Industry [New Ebook]

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Whether we realise it or not, our brains are wired to pay more attention to a select handful of voices in a crowd. It might be a celebrity setting a new fashion trend, a business leader announcing a new viewpoint on company culture, or a brand unveiling new innovative product designs.

If it’s an area we’re interested in, we automatically listen to some voices more than others.

These individuals and brands are known as influencers. But while it’s great to be a follower, you might want to be the one others look up to. The question is, how do you do that?

What is an Industry Influencer?

Influencers are individuals or brands that are considered leaders and trendsetters in their particular niche. People follow them because they have expertise, authority, and a proven track record of being ahead of the curve.

Some influencers are globally well-known and associated strongly with a particular area, such as Apple for design innovation, Jack Ma for business, Nike for forward-thinking advertising, Kate Middleton for style, and Warren Buffet for financial advice.

Yet there are even more influencers that, while not universally recogniseable, have huge followings in certain niches. In marketing, for example, you’ve most likely heard of Seth Godin and Ariana Huffington, who are pioneers of internet marketing and publishing. If you’re big into SEO, you probably follow Rand Fishkin and Dan Petrovic. If you’re focused on landing page conversions, Oli Gardner may be at the top of your list of people to watch.

How Can You Become an Influencer?

Being an influencer gives you a larger platform for your message, which means more brand awareness, recognition, and respect. But how do you become an influencer?

Learn how to build your influencer strategy with the help of our brand new ebook How to Become an Influencer in Your Industry, co-authored by HubSpot and LinkedIn with a foreword from well-known industry influencer Jeff Bullas. After reading it, you’ll understand:

  • The psychology of influence. What characteristics and traits are necessary to become an influencer?
  • The components of influencer strategy. Learn how to identify your audience and establish your brand through content and promotion.
  • How to grow your brand. Get actionable tips on how to increase your reach through networking, online thought-leadership and events

If you’re serious about growing your brand and increasing your following, you don’t want to miss out on this step-by-step guide to becoming an influencer in your industry! Click here to download your free copy.

How to Become an Influencer in Your Industry Ebook

Jul

21

2016

How to Say ‘No’ To Your Boss

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Technically, your boss owns your professional time. That means it’s perfectly within her rights to reprioritize what you’re working on if she thinks doing so is the best thing for the team.

But even good bosses can have a hard time understanding what’s being sacrificed when they assign new tasks and projects. And if you continuously allow your boss to pile new things on your plate, you’ll eventually find yourself delaying other work or not getting it done at all. In the end, that reflects poorly on you — and that’s not fair.

Saying “no” to your boss can be intimidating, but there are plenty of cases where it’s a totally appropriate thing to do. The key is learning how to say no in a way that’s tactful and helps your boss find an alternative solution.

This is a skill that’ll serve you well in every stage of your career. Being able to say “no” to the right things in the right ways will end up saving you a whole lot of time and pain.

So the next time your boss asks you to increase your workload, take on a task you think is a bad idea, or work outside of your normal hours … how do you know whether it’s an okay time to say “no”? And what’s the best way to decline?

When Is It Okay to Say ‘No’ to Your Boss?

There are some situations when it’s okay to say no to your boss, and some situations when it’s not. The first question you should ask yourself is: What situation are you in when the request comes in?

For example, if you’re within the first six months of a brand new job, you need to be more of a “yes-man” (or woman) than not in order to establish yourself as a hardworking, motivated, and competent team player. Putting in extra time and effort when you’re proving yourself to a new team is, frankly, what’s expected of you in a new role. Same goes if you’ve just received poor feedback or a bad evaluation at work and need to spend some time proving yourself again.

Finally, if you’ve recently said “no” to a request from your boss, you’ll want to think more carefully about this new one so you don’t come across as a naysayer.

But if you’ve proven yourself by being a high performer and a valuable coworker, then you can set some limits.

How to Say ‘No’ To Your Boss

Let’s walk through a few tips for setting yourself up to say no to your boss in a way that’s diplomatic and acceptable.

1) Respond right away, even if it’s just to ask for more time.

When that request comes in over email or in a virtual chat, it can be easy to “hide out” and pretend you didn’t see it until you have a well-formulated response. (Unless your boss uses the HubSpot Sales Chrome extension, that is. It notifies you when someone opens your emails.)

As tempting as it might be, don’t wait to respond until you have a rebuttal prepared. The more communicative you are from the get-go, the more trustworthy and professional you’ll appear — putting you in a better position to negotiate later.

But what should you say in that initial response?

If you take only one thing away from this article, this is it: Saying no to your boss doesn’t mean actually saying the word “no.”

While something like “No, sorry, I don’t have time right now” might seem like a totally legitimate response to you, an instantaneous “no” can not only be off-putting, but it could also signify to your boss that you’re having trouble prioritizing and executing on your work.

For the sake of your relationship with your boss and your integrity as an employee, you’ll need to tread more carefully than that. So instead, here’s what you might write in that initial response:

Validate their request.

Instead of just saying “no,” Leadership Development Expert Kirstin Lynde suggests responding first with words of affirmation.

“As soon as you get the request, you might say something like, ‘I understand why this is an important thing to get done,'” she told me. “Or, if you don’t think that, you might say, ‘I think I see what you mean.'”

This validates the request and shows your boss you’re listening without necessarily assigning you as the point person for the task.

Ask questions.

Once you’ve affirmed their request, Lynde suggests that you get curious.

“Ask questions. Say, ‘It would be helpful to understand a little bit more about what you’re thinking — about timing, the amount of attention you want me to give to this, and so on,'” she suggests. “You may have a totally different concept than your boss does of how long it’ll take and which skills will be needed.”

The answers to these questions will give you more context for you to frame your pushback around (or might reveal to you that you can take the project on after all, negating the “no” entirely).

Ask for a little bit of time if you need it.

If you need to, buy yourself some time to evaluate the request and whether or not you can actually do it. You might say something like, “May I have a half a day to think this through and see where it fits alongside my other priorities?” Unless it’s super urgent, a good boss is likely to honor that request.

2) List out why you need or want to say ‘no.’

Once you’ve established that you’ve received the request and bought yourself some time, use it to thoughtfully evaluate whether — and why — you need to decline.

Is it because you have a looming deadline on an important project? Or do you disagree with the strategy? Is it because you consider whatever’s being asked of you unethical? Or is it because you’re days away from a big vacation and you simply don’t have the availability to take on anything new just now?

As you brainstorm, write down these answers. They’ll come in handy later when you’re formulating a response to your boss.

3) Put yourself in your boss’ shoes.

Empathy can be a powerful tool when attempting to persuade. By considering the situation from your boss’ perspective, you’ll be able to frame a much more compelling argument later.

Ask yourselves questions like:

  • Why is your boss asking you to do this?
  • What business purpose does it serve?
  • If you declined the request, what would happen?

By considering the situation from her point of view as well as your own, you’ll be able to more easily come up with a solution that is agreeable to both parties — whether it’s executing on the proposed plan, or putting a different one forward.

4) Come up with an alternative solution.

If you’re still leaning toward a “no,” your strongest argument will include an alternative way to solve the problem. Your boss will appreciate the concern and effort you put into helping her find some way to get the task done, even if you’re not the one doing it.

For example, you might ask to postpone the task until some of your other priorities are finished, or possibly come back with a list of coworkers who might be up for the task. Have any colleagues who might be interested in growing their career through projects like this, or whose background is a better fit? That’s a great way to show you’re paying attention to and are interested in your peers’ professional development.

5) Ask your boss to help you reprioritize.

If not having enough time to complete the task is your main concern, ask your boss to help you reprioritize. This will give her a better understanding of what you have on your plate and what you’d have to give up by taking on a new task or project, while also giving her a chance to share her two cents on what’s important.

You might say something like, “In taking this on, I want to make sure I don’t drop the ball on other priorities. Would you mind helping me sort out my current projects and figure out where this fits in?”

Then, set up a meeting and share what you’re working on, how long it’s taking, and what you’d have to delay or stop doing if you were to take on the new project. To prepare, type our your notes neatly and clearly in a document you can share with your boss to show you’ve put time and effort into collaborating on a mutually beneficial solution.

If all goes well, you’ll end the meeting with permission to move around your priorities in a way both of you are happy with.

6) Choose your words carefully.

During this conversation, frame your responses in a way that makes it clear you’re thinking and concerned about the company’s interests — and choose your wording carefully.

“Most [good bosses] say they’re willing to listen to sound reasoning to find a solution,” says Diane Amundson, a workplace communications consultant. “It’s all about how you frame and phrase it.”

Here are some tips to help you get your ideas across effectively:

  • Acknowledge her idea. Your boss will be more open to listening to an alternative solution or hearing a “no” if you’ve first validated her suggestion.
  • Be direct, but tactful. This is a key business skill that’ll serve you well in every stage of your career.
  • Avoid negative excuses, like “It’s not my turn”; “I did it last time”; “I wouldn’t know where to begin to do that.”
  • Use positive phrasing. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this project because I have too much other work,” try something like, “I know this project is important for hitting our number this month, and I have a few ideas about how to reorganize the workload.”
  • Show you’re resourceful by doing your research and presenting other ideas.
  • Don’t get defensive. Position your message in a neutral, rational way. For example, you might say, “I understand your perspective, and here’s another way to think about the situation.”
  • Show you care about the team’s goals. You and your boss share a higher purpose: to accomplish your team and company goals. Acknowledge that you’re in it together, and frame your suggestions as ways to help that goal.

7) Be communicative.

Don’t wait too long before scheduling a conversation with your boss or letting her know that you won’t be able to carry out her request. If your boss sees you’ve left a conversation open-ended, she might think she’s being blown off.

The more communicative you are, the more trustworthy and professional you come across. Plus, keeping her in the loop will help you and her figure out an alternative solution with time to spare.

Pushing back on a request from your boss can be intimidating — especially if your boss is the kind of person who’s constantly sending you new ideas and pushing projects onto you unexpectedly.

But in the end, being honest about what you can and cannot accomplish is much better than setting yourself up for failure.

What other advice can you add about saying “no” to your boss? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below.

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Jul

8

2016

How to Become More Resilient [Infographic]

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Tragedy. Illness. Job or relationship problems. We all go through tough times at one point or another. It’s unfortunate, but it’s inevitable.

What sets us apart, then, is how we recover from the bad things life throws our way. When you experience a negative event in your life, how do you react? What strategies do you use to heal, grow, and move on?

That’s where resilience comes in. Resilience is your ability to bounce back from the problems you face, no matter their severity. The stronger your resilience, the more likely you’ll learn from your setbacks.

But building resilience takes work. To help you get started, check out the infographic below from Happify. They’ve covered a handful of tips and tricks that’ll help you learn how to heal from tough events in both your professional and personal life.

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Jun

24

2016

How to Appear Confident, Even When You’re Not [Infographic]

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You know the saying, “Fake it ’til you make it”?

It turns out that doing things that make you appear confident — even if you don’t actually feel confident  — can affect how others see you, and can ultimately have a big impact on your success. It can also affect the chemicals in your brain to make you actually feel more confident when all is said and done.

Think about the last time you felt unsure of yourself. Perhaps you were about to give a presentation in front of a group of people; or maybe you were feeling really awkward at a networking event where you knew no one. (Terrifying, I know.)

In these instances, there are a couple of handy things you can do to make it look like you’re feeling confident. And when you come off as confident, authentic, comfortable, and enthusiastic, you’ll come off as smarter, more passionate, and more likeable.

Check out the infographic below from Vegas Extreme Skydiving for tips on how to appear confident. Use them the next time you’re feeling unsure of yourself, whether you’re trying something new, forging new relationships, or taking new risks.

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free ebook: leadership lessons

Jun

23

2016

How to Deliver the Perfect Business Pitch: 8 Tips Inspired by ‘Shark Tank’

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A great business pitch is among the first of many hurdles an entrepreneur must jump to get their company off the ground.

While it’s not necessarily an indicator of future success, it’s a critical moment for any business. A great pitch can bring valuable partnerships to the table — partnerships that come with even more valuable financial incentives.

Business pitches take place in a wide variety of settings, from elevators, to offices, to cocktail parties. Some lucky entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their businesses on ABC’s hit TV series Shark Tank, where promising entrepreneurs pitch to a panel of five “Sharks” — self-made multimillionaire and billionaire investors who’ve achieved enormous success in their respective industries.

These entrepreneurs have a short amount of time to tell their stories, sell their products, answer questions, and overall make an impact that they hope will lead to a major money-making opportunity.

There’s a lot about delivering great product pitches that we can learn from the show. Read on to learn about tips from successful Shark Tank product pitches.

(Do you have a startup you want to pitch? Enter HubSpot’s pitch-off competition for a chance to pitch your business on-stage at #INBOUND16 in front of thousands of marketing and sales professionals, early-adopters, techies, and our panel of all-star judges. Click here to learn more about how to enter the pitch-off.)

8 Tips From Successful Shark Tank Product Pitches

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Selling your idea is as much how well you present it as it is the idea itself. Back in 2012, Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran told Business Insider that the best pitch she’s every seen on the show was from Sabin Lomac and Jim Teslikis, co-founders of a seafood truck company called Cousins Maine Lobsters.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘My God, these guys are amazing!'” said Corcoran. “They were clear, they were good-looking (you couldn’t take your eyes off them), they were high energy, and they answered every question and objection like geniuses. Genuine, rock solid, and perfect answers.”

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Image Credit: Business Insider

Once she started working with them, Corcoran understood the secret to their polished appearance on the show: preparation. The two co-founders had spent a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing for their appearance on the show. For instance, they watched all four existing seasons of Shark Tank and wrote down every objection any shark had ever asked an entrepreneur. Then, they prepared and practiced their answers and quizzed each other to make sure they had it all down before appearing in front of the Sharks.

“I haven’t seen it before, and I haven’t seen it since,” Corcoran said of their avid preparation.

The Takeaway

Before you make your pitch, you’d better do your homework. Study the bios, social media accounts, and investment backgrounds of every single investor who will be in the room. Make sure you understand what drives each of them so that you can adapt your pitch accordingly. Remember: Your presentation shouldn’t be the same if you’re pitching to a potential partner versus a potential engineer hire, for instance.

Know the key points of your presentation cold and nail at least the first few minutes of your presentation where it’s just you doing the talking. It’s harder to straighten out a bad pitch than it is to keep the momentum of a good one going.

As Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban says, “Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts.”

2) Practice your pitch in front of real people first.

We’re all heard the mantra “practice makes perfect” time and time again, but I want to really hammer home that how well and often you practice your business pitch can make a potentially life-changing impact on you and your business.

Let’s take the case of Aaron Krause, the man who created the product Scrub Daddy, a smiley-faced cleaning utensil that received a bid from Shark Tank investor Lori Greiner — and has been called the most successful product in Shark Tank history.

In addition to having a phenomenal product, Krause’s differentiator was practicing his pitch in front of other people before going on the show. According to Krause, he practiced for months in local grocery stores where he was selling his product. In the process, he refined his pitch so well over a period of months that, when he finally appeared on the show, his delivery and demonstration was flawless. Shark Tank investor John Daymond said it was “like watching a live infomercial.”

Later, Daymond would say it was his favorite pitch of the first six seasons of the show. Daymond was beat out by Greiner, who invested $200,000 in exchange for 20% equity in Scrub Daddy.

The Takeaway

The more familiar and comfortable you are with your pitch, the more effective your presentation will be. Like Cuban said, there are no shortcuts here: You have to practice (a lot) to reach the level of familiarity and comfort that’ll result in a flawless presentation. And that flawless presentation could make you a lot of money.

At the end of every practice pitch, ask yourself what you would change about it. In fact, in certain settings, you might ask the people you pitched to what they would change about it. Use it as a learning exercise by reflecting on what went well and what you can do differently next time.

Pro Tip: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki suggests that you throw away your pitch and start with a clean slate every five pitches or so. “Let this ‘version 2.0’ reflect the gestalt of what you’ve learned instead of being a patchwork quilt,” he wrote.

3) Tell a great story, and make an emotional connection.

While some presentations are more formal and have rigid structures, pitches tend to have more flexibility — and presenting your pitch as a story can be much more compelling than a list of facts.

One of the best showcases of how a compelling story can win over investors (and can even, in some cases, make up for lack of business acumen) comes from Tree T-PEE founder Johnny Georges. That pitch was the most emotional moment ever on the show, said Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary. “It actually is the reason the show won an Emmy,” he said. Shark Tank had won an Emmy for Outstanding Structured Reality Program in 2014.

Georges’ pitch began with the story of how he developed a business from his late father’s invention, a device farmers can use to reduce the amount of water wasted by irrigating orange groves.

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Image Credit: Business Insider

The investors liked the technology and the patient, but they told Georges they were disappointed by his lack of drive to make these devices more profitable.

Georges’ response? He launched into a powerful story of why he believes so strongly in helping his fellow farmers and carrying on his father’s legacy. “It was a particularly powerful moment in Shark Tank,” said O’Leary, “and no one’s going to forget it. Every Shark had a tear in their eye, including me. He is a great soul, that man.”

A guest investor on the show that day, Paul DeJoria, ended up investing $150,000 for 20% equity.

The Takeaway

This story isn’t about how to make up for not being business-savvy. But it is a powerful example of how making an emotional connection with the investors and connecting with them on a human level can make a big difference in the outcome of your pitch.

Remember: People tend to react emotionally first, and then rationalize logically. Research shows that even decisions we believe are logical ones are arguably always based on emotion.

“People cannot run emotion and logic at the same time,” wrote Martin Soorjoo, author of Here’s the Pitch: How to Pitch Your Business to Anyone, Get Funded and Win New Clients. “This means that when you construct and deliver your pitch, focus on ensuring you achieve favorable power dynamics and inspire and engage your audience so that you keep them in the emotion zone.”

4) Promote yourself as a savvy business person.

The entrepreneurs on Shark Tank who’ve given the best pitches not only tell a compelling story, but also promote themselves as smart, savvy businesspeople. After all, an investment results in a business partnership — and investors want to work with smart people who know what they’re doing and can make them money.

Brian Lim is one such entrepreneur. In 2015, he pitched his product EmazingLights, which are gloves with LED lights in the fingertips that have become popular at raves and music festivals.

At the same time he pitched his product, he also pitched both the product and his own work ethic and business acumen. He credited the $7 million in annual revenue he’d earned through EmazingLights to his focus, passion, and long-term vision to beat out his competitors in the emerging rave apparel space.

“We own 80% of the global gloving market,” said Lim in his pitch. “The rest of the market is made up of four or five of our competitors, and I guarantee they do not operate at the same level.”

He used data to back up strong statements like these. For example, he started the company with $100 and has grossed over $13 million in four years while starting another supporting company for the rave community called iHeartRaves.

“In my view, the transient nature of it has me a little nervous, but I can see someone here who’s working his tail off, which is interesting,” said O’Leary before making the first offer.

The biggest compliment Lim received came from Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavec during negotiations on the episode: “You’re the real deal, man,” he said. “You are probably one of the, if not the best entrepreneur we’ve had here.”

Lim would end up making a deal with Cuban and Daymond, with Cuban giving $650,000 for 5% and John taking licensing rights and a 20% commission.

The Takeaway

Lim had a great business plan and the numbers and sales history to back it up — but where he really stood out was in selling himself as a phenomenal entrepreneur and potential business partner.

Investors know that the better their business partners, the less work they’ll ultimately have to do. Use stories about your work ethic and dedication to convince investors that you have what it takes to come up with new ideas and take on business initiatives intelligently, all by yourself.

(If you want to develop your own entrepreneurial skills, here’s a list of resources that’ll help you become more business-savvy.)

5) Make your presentation visual and interactive.

If giving a business pitch makes you think of PowerPoint slides and bullet points, then you’re doing it wrong. On Shark Tank, a common thread for successful business pitches are that these entrepreneurs make their presentations heavily visual and even interactive. In many cases, they bring products or parts of the product that the Sharks can actually touch, hold in their hands, and experience for themselves.

For example, Lani Lazarri, who was 18 years old at the time, gave a thorough demonstration of her line of skincare products called Simple Sugars. Early on in the presentation, she asks one of the investors Laurie Geiner to come up to her table and try the product for herself.

Lani gave Laurie a choice of which flavor to try, and instructed her to add a little bit of water and scrub until she felt the sugars start to melt. She asked Laurie how it felt, to which Laurie responded, “It feels very, very soft.”

“That’s the oils in it,” Lani responded. “The sugar removes the barrier of dead skin cells that naturally sits on top of your skills, which allows the oils to penetrate your skin and provide that moisture.” The visual language helped the other investors in the room feel what was happening without actually trying it for themselves.

In general, you’ll notice that the vast majority (if not all) of Shark Tank‘s best pitches are highly visual and involve interactive elements like Lani’s. The only time you’ll see entrepreneurs use a slide deck is to present the name of the product, and sometimes to show different elements of it that can’t be seen in person.

The Takeaway

Visual presentations and physical interaction have positive psychological impacts on an audience. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something, the more we feel ownership over it — and the more we want it. And the more we feel we already own something, the higher value we place on it.

You can still use PowerPoint slides, but if you do, be sure to offer interesting visual and dramatic slide presentations. (And read this blog post for 14 PowerPoint presentation tips to make your designs more effective, along with free templates.)

Pro tip: Prepare a second version of your slide deck to send out later as a leave-behind that you can include in your follow-up to investors. Your two presentations should match in general flow and content, but the one shown in your live presentation should be highly visual, and the one to send later should have more words and explanations so it can act as a standalone presentation.

6) Highlight product validation by talking about early sales.

Some of the most common questions Sharks ask of entrepreneurs on the show are about sales:

  • What are your sales year-to-date?
  • What do you think you’ll do this calendar year?
  • What do you think you’ll make on it?

For investors, early sales success is one of the most promising signs of the product’s validation. It shows that consumers are already valuing the product and are willing to spend money on it.

One entrepreneur named Max Gunawan pitched his foldable lamp company, Lumio, to the investors on Shark Tank in 2015. In his pitch, he clearly illustrated how an investor could make money off his quickly growing company by explaining that he grew the business to $1 million in annual sales within two years.

All five Shark Tank investors offered him deals, and he ended up partnering with Herjavec for $350,000 in exchange for 10% equity.

Rebecca Rescate, who founded a toilet training kit for cats called CitiKitty, also used her sales numbers and projections to prove the value of her concept.

After fielding some jokes from the investors initially, she pushed through to explain how she’d made $225,000 in sales the previous year all by herself — and earned coverage in major media outlets like The Wall Street Journal to help create a demand. She ended up making a deal with Kevin Harrington for $100,000 for 20% equity.

The Takeaway

Along with a compelling story and presentation, talking comfortably about your sales numbers and projections is a very important part of your pitch. Without numbers to back them up, whether a person likes a product concept or not is fairly anecdotal. Investors like to see ideas that are backed by real dollar figures.

If you haven’t put your product on the market yet, you can get an idea of demand and promises to buy from your Kickstarter marketing. If nothing else, Angel Investor Tim Berry suggests bringing signed letters from future customers or from sales channels. “Distributors or retail chains are very helpful,” he wrote in an article for Entrepreneur. “And when possible, don’t just talk about documents. Take a picture and post it on a slide in the deck.”

Remember to be realistic with your sales predictions. If they’re not believable, then you won’t be, either. (Read this blog post to learn more about how to accurately predict your future sales.)

7) Come in with a negotiation strategy.

The negotiation is arguably the hardest — not to mention the scariest — part of a business pitch. One of the most common reasons why entrepreneurs fail to land a deal on Shark Tank is because they don’t negotiate well. Either they haven’t done their homework on the numbers, or they become indecisive or anxious, or both.

Brad Schultz, Aimy Steadman, and Justin Fenchel made up the three-person team behind boxed wine cocktail company Beatbox Beverages.

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Image Credit: Heavy

Let me outline how the negotiation went for you …

When the BeatBox team first entered the meeting room, they asked for $250,000 for 10% equity. During their pitch, they talked about how they initially invested $55,000 in the company themselves, along with an additional $100,000 borrowed from friends and family — which resulted in $235,000 in sales in their first 14 months.

“Tell me how you’re going to take it from $235,000 to $5 million,” Herjavec responded. Fenchel said that the money would be used mostly to hire brand ambassadors to set up tastings at liquor stores.

Another investor at the table, Mark Cuban, didn’t like it. “Your leverage points for any one store aren’t great,” he came back. What Cuban meant here was that getting products in even the largest private store doesn’t offer potential for massive growth, according to Business Insider‘s coverage of the episode. A better strategy, Cuban said, would be to bring their products to big events with thousands of people.

After some back-and-forth about promotion and distribution strategies, Fenchel and his team received a number of different deals from the investors that they’d need to consider against their initial request for $250,000 for 10% equity ($2.5 million valuation):

  • $400,000 for 20% equity from Barbara Corcoran ($2 million valuation)
  • $200,000 for 20% from Kevin O’Leary ($1 million valuation)
  • $600,000 for 33.3% equity from Mark Cuban ($1.8 million valuation)

Along with the offer, Cuban argued that the entrepreneurs should pick him because he thinks BeatBox has a shot at going viral in the same way that Skinnygirl did. He pressured Fenchel and his team to make a decision — and they were quick to respond. This is even more impressive since they were a team of three, but ultimately, they’d agreed to give Fenchel the final say without objecting.

Fenchel was immediately prepared with a counter-offer. “Would you do $1 million for a third?” he asked. Cuban said yes.

That was a successful negotiation. Here’s what a failed negotiation looks like on Shark Tank, where even promising entrepreneurs have missed out on deals because they were indecisive.

In this case, Lei Yu and Tyler Freeman, the co-founders of the wearable technology company DrumPants, are a prime example of this. They walked onto the show asking for $150,000 in exchange for 5% equity. From there, they received two offers: $150,000 for 20% equity from Herjavec, and $250,000 for 20% from Daymond. Yu and Freeman then ask if they can step into the hallway to discuss.

Back in the tank, O’Leary says, “You know what happens in Shark Tank when you leave the tank? Nasty, nasty things. What is wrong? You’ve got two offers. You’ve got to make a decision.”

When they came back in, Freeman asked Herjavec if he’d drop his stake from 20% to 15% for the same $150,000, to which Herjavec doesn’t respond. Finally, Herjavec — and eventually Daymond — withdraw their offers because the two co-founders were so indecisive.

“I think what your challenge is, and you’ve probably been hearing it your entire lives, is that you’re both very deliberate,” Cuban tells them before they leave the stage. “But that’s part of the problem, right? Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good. Right? Paralysis via analysis.”

The Takeaway

Before you confront your investors, you need to come up with a plan for negotiating. This is the part of your pitch where the stakes are very, very high. You’ll need to do a lot of preparation ahead of time. Make sure you’re totally familiar with your product or service, the industry, and the competition — including details like numbers.

You’ll also want to research how each of the investors you’re meeting with have negotiated in the past. If you know anyone who’s dealt with them before personally, get in touch with them. “Many negotiators develop patterns and certain styles that you may be able to use to your advantage,” writes Michael Sanibel for Entrepreneur.

Sanibel also recommends having the endgame in mind as you come up with your negotiation strategy. And during the negotiation, you’ll need to be prepared to go after a win-win situation, which could mean splitting the difference between your ask and an investor’s offer.

8) Keep your cool.

Giving any sort of presentation is nerve-wracking enough. But when you’re pitching your passion to people who are primed to be both skeptical and critical, it can really feel like you’re stepping into the hot seat and putting yourself out there. And when the questions start pouring it, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting “attacked.”

But keeping your cool can pay off big time. One of the biggest Shark Tank deals in the history of the show was won because the person pitching kept a cool head during a barrage of questions and expressions of doubt.

The deal was won by Andrew McMurray, the chief consultant of single-serving wine company Zipz Wine, who negotiated a whopping $2.5 million investment in exchange for 10% equity from Kevin O’Leary in 2014.

The Shark Tank investors had a lot of questions and concerns about McMurray’s business. Most notably, O’Leary argued that the founder of a very similar-looking company called Copa Di Vino had come onto the show twice and left with nothing. The investors berated McMurray with questions about his licensing deal, his branding, his pricing, and more.

Many people would have broken down under the pressure, but check out how calmly McMurray handled the negotiation.

When it came time to make a decision, McMurray made a quick phone call to check with his partners, but ultimately took the deal. He wouldn’t have been able to do it without his ability to keep cool and stay reasonable throughout the negotiation.

The Takeaway

While you may feel nervous, it’s important to keep a cool head during your pitch. If you’re visibly uncomfortable, you’re only going to make the investors uncomfortable — and they might see that as a lack of confidence.

The more you know your product and the industry, and the more prepared you were for the Q&A, the more likely you’ll be able to draw on what you know to offer answers to questions you expected and those you didn’t expect.

“Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren’t comfortable answering or don’t know how to answer, don’t make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:

  • “That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back.”
  • “I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it — great suggestion.”

If an investor points out a deficiency in your business plan, you might talk about how the investor’s guidance and capital can help turn those weaknesses around.

And hey, if things go poorly, don’t dwell on it. Learn from the experience, make identifying what you’ll do differently next time into an exercise, and then cut yourself some slack and move on.

What other tips for delivering the perfect pitch can you add to this list? Share with us in the comments.

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Jun

1

2016

7 Ways Leaders Can Inspire Innovation Across Teams

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Innovation in the workplace poses a unique challenge: Growth requires your employees to take risks, yet chasing unproven ideas can often mean fundamentally risking your job.

While many companies find success confining innovation to specific departments or innovation labs, this can often limit the flow of ideas and constrain the development of new products.

When it comes to tackling innovation, leaders must carefully build a culture that tolerates change and provides the freedom to explore big ideas. To help you get started, check out the seven tips below. 

7 Ways Leaders Can Inspire Innovation Across Teams

1) Find your tolerance for growth.

Let’s hit the obvious truth first: Not all companies are built for explosive growth.

While enterprise leaders (and employees) may envy the nimble, adaptable cultures of early stage companies, legacy structures and processes provide tremendous value for many corporations. Unfortunately, strict frameworks can end up stifling innovation rather than fostering it.

To combat this, leaders of all types need to fully understand their growth journey and what it takes to get there. To do so, it’s helpful to have CEOs and boards collaborate to establish a tolerance for growth and create cadences for employees to work within.

Remember: The push for innovation should be tailored to the needs of each particular company and team, not on the performance of a competitor.

2) Craft the right story.

The case for innovation can be made from the C-suite, but employees will drive it forward — and they’ll need a reason to create and chase new ideas.

Inspiring innovation requires a compelling story that resonates across every department in your company. That story starts with company values that reflect a dedication to innovation and real-world impact.

Effective storytelling means giving your managers and staff a big problem to solve, not simply pushing little innovation projects here and there. For example, GE Healthcare pushes the narrative that everything its people do and build is to make the world a healthier, better place. And this notion is reflected across all of their accounts, assets, and efforts:

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Once you have a big idea or problem to fall in love with, your innovation projects can be productized. This larger structure offers a way to create strong leaders and gives managers context to approve and encourage new ideas.

3) Rethink your team structures.

Speaking of managers, they’re often the group most likely to derail any cultural shift — particularly one that requires taking risks. While the C-suite might have a tolerance for risk, entrenched management and salespeople may have a much different comfort zone. To break through the management firewall, you need to either incentivize risk, or simply rethink your overall structure.

Nearly four years ago, my digital agency — 352 Inc. — radically altered our team structures and processes. In doing so, we built cross-functional web development teams (designers, developers, and strategists collaborating on a single client project to completion) and adopted a lean startup methodology across the company. While the process was key, we also eliminated most of our management hierarchy — turning project managers into servant leaders.

This shift fully empowered our teams to communicate directly with clients, manage relationships, and build a solution that best fit the needs of the project. By removing the barriers to employee-owned innovation, we’ve seen higher quality work, happier clients, and more productive teams.

4) Measure employees on value-based metrics.

Unfortunately, you can’t expect employees to pursue innovation just because you’ve said it’s important to the business. For innovation to stick across the company, it needs to be a job requirement rather than a suggestion.

While your story should encourage employee buy-in, performance reviews should include a focus on innovation. Employees should be measured and rewarded for the risks they take — even if they don’t necessarily pan out.

Once you have these metrics in place, you’ll need to provide a way for staff to truly pursue innovation. This leads me to my next point …

5) Structure innovation time for maximum impact.

Just like finding your tolerance for growth, most companies will need to find a way to give employees structured time to focus on creating actual, working products.

At 352, we’ve embraced hackathons as a good way to create and validate new product ideas. During our hackathons, we encourage employees to build a functioning product with a marketing plan and launch strategy in just three days. Finished products are judged by industry leaders and their peers within the company for market viability and utility.

In the past two years, we’ve launched three of these products into their own businesses, rewarding employees with ownership in the ideas they build.

The lesson? While brainstorming and whiteboarding have their place in the innovation process, be sure that your teams actually have time to turn those ideas into a reality. 

6) Look outside your own walls.

Even the most nimble organizations can suffer from red tape, compliance requirements, and legacy workflows. And while a large IT structure has obvious benefits, it can also constrain and slow innovation. Luckily, external innovation partners — like startups and agencies — can focus on a single problem and quickly develop a solution.

In 2014, an internal Cox Automotive startup group approached us to help build a web app that allowed anonymous negotiation for a new car purchase. Rather than struggling through internal development red tape, we rapidly built the product with cutting-edge, open-source technology.

Once we’d validated the product with actual end-users, we worked alongside their internal IT team to build compliance standards and infrastructure requirements. This flexibility to work outside the typical chain of command allowed the opportunity for the app to find product/market fit and grow with actual customers much quicker than an internal innovation team could achieve.

7) Celebrate and encourage learning.

The celebration of failure is in vogue throughout Silicon Valley, but that’s often shortsighted. It’s vital to be entrepreneurial, but innovators that come from more traditional industries can quickly fail themselves out of a job unless they focus on the lessons that failure brings.

A culture of learning fast, rather than failing fast, will ultimately drive sustainable innovation. 

Getting Started

At the end of the day, inspiring a culture of change and innovation requires strong storytelling, employee empowerment, and a willingness to look outside your organization to find answers.

Innovation won’t happen overnight, but it will have long-term impact when managed well by visionary leaders.

What do you do to encourage innovation in the workplace? Share you thoughts in the comments below.

free ebook: leadership lessons

May

27

2016

9 Resources to Help You Become a Better Leader

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Some things in life are relatively straightforward to learn. 

Want to knit a scarf? Head the local craft store, pick up a book, and get to work. Sure, your gauge might be all over the place and your transitions between balls of yarn might be haphazard, but you’ll still end up with something good enough to keep you warm during the winter. 

Learning to lead others isn’t so linear. 

Sure, you can pick up a book to get you started, but that’s all it will be — a start. You’ve got to read, and listen, and ask questions, and make mistakes, and course-correct, and then you might be at a “good enough” level. 

If you’re on that leadership development path and looking for some more materials to help you along that journey, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of our favorite podcasts, tools, tips, and resources to become a better leader. 

9 Resources to Help You Become a Better Leader

1) Bill Walton on The Growth Show

Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you can learn something from Bill Walton. The NBA legend worked alongside two of the most prominent leaders in basketball: John Wooden, his basketball coach at UCLA, and Larry Bird, his teammate on the Celtics. In this episode of HubSpot’s podcast, The Growth Show, you’ll hear more on what made those leaders so special — and apply those insights to your own career.

2) Speaking.io

While public speaking isn’t a requirement for being a strong leader, it certainly can help you differentiate yourself at work. Whether you’ve got to nail a presentation in front of a room of execs or you’re worried about presenting an idea to your manager in your next 1:1, knowing how to frame your idea and effectively communicate it to your audience is incredibly important. 

This resource is a near one-stop-shop for public speaking tips. Check it out to get advice on everything from developing your idea, to designing your slides, to actually delivering your presentation. 

3) Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

Though it can be tempting to feel like you have to master everything to be a leader, the most exceptional leaders embrace their vulnerability — and use it to their advantage. 

If you’re struggling with being vulnerable with your team, look no further than Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. In the book, Brené Brown dives into a decade of research to unveil the power of vulnerability, and gives tips on how you can open up more in your own life.

4) The Radical Candor Framework

Think about the hardest piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten. Chances are, it was rough to receive … but you were better in the end for it. 

That’s exactly what happened to Kim Scott. After an important presentation, Scott’s boss, Sheryl Sandberg — yes, that Sheryl — had some feedback. Harsh feedback. The kind of feedback that stings. But because Scott knew that Sandberg was coming from a compassionate place when giving the feedback, Scott accepted it, moved on, and became better.

Scott took this pivotal interaction and used it to develop a framework for giving better feedback at work. No matter what stage of your career you’re in, I’d highly suggest taking the time to read her framework.

(We also had the pleasure of having Kim Scott on The Growth Show. If you’re interested in hearing more about her perspective on leadership, listen to her episode below.)

5) CareerLark

Speaking of feedback: While you’re putting all the advice from all of these books, blogs, podcasts, and frameworks into practice, don’t you wish someone would give you feedback on how you’re doing? 

Enter CareerLark, a Slack bot that helps you seek out on-the-fly advice on skills you’re most interested in improving.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say the skill you’d like to get better at is public speaking. You could use CareerLark to ping your boss after your next big presentation to get real-time feedback on how it went — all through Slack. 

Micro-feedback in real-time? Great for your skill development (and great practice for your boss, too). 

6) Advice From Real People

Sometimes, getting feedback from someone who isn’t in your company or industry can be the most enlightening. If you’re looking to step outside your bubble, here are a few apps to help: 

  • RealTalk: This app features interviews and advice from real people in tons of different industries. Learn what it’s really like to be in a job — it could help you better benchmark your own experiences and uncover new ways of thinking. 
  • Advice.vc: Even if you’re not in a startup, turning to a venture capitalist (VC) for advice could get you through the trickier situations at work. For $20 (which gets donated to charity, not pocketed), ask a VC expert about a problem you’re facing, and get help finding a solution.
  • Glassbreakers: If you’re a woman struggling to find a mentor in your industry, check out this tool. It’ll match you with another brilliant woman in your space who could give you great advice about developing your leadership skills.

7) Online Courses

So far, the leadership resources largely have to do with management and communication … but that’s not the only way to level up in your career. 

Sometimes, it’s about becoming really, really good at a certain part of your job (or a skill that you want to be part of your job one day). For that to happen, you just need to hunker down and learn it. 

An online course can be a great way to do just that. While where you find an online class differs greatly by the skill you’re looking to develop, here are a few places I’d recommend checking out if you want to improve your marketing-related skills:

  • Inbound Certification: If you want a deep dive into some of the most important aspects of marketing today, check out our free certification. 
  • Design Lab: Want to up your design skills? Check out Design Labs. You’ll be given real assignments to build your knowledge — and a mentor to help you through each one.
  • Codecademy: Learn to code — for free — at Codecademy. This is especially helpful if you’re the type of person who learns best through lots of hands-on experience.
  • Lynda’s Excel Courses: If you’re interested in advancing your data analysis skills, you’re gonna have to learn how to use Excel. Period. Check out Lynda’s Excel courses for more help. 

8) Industry-Specific Slack Communities

Many of us are on Slack all day to communicate with our coworkers, but there are lots of opportunities to use the platform to connect and learn from folks outside our company. In fact, many industries have Slack groups you can join to talk about the latest trends and get advice on problems you’re facing. (Or lurk in the background like I do to absorb as much information as possible.)

To find a community to join, I’d recommend checking out these two resources: 

9) The Next Five 

Maybe the resources above haven’t appealed to you. Maybe you’re at a loss for what kind of skills you want to develop. Maybe you’re not even convinced you want to be a leader in your field at all … but you aren’t sure what to do next. 

If you’re already doing a little soul searching, you should take a few minutes to check out The Next Five. It’s a free assessment that can help you identify the next step in your career.

Bonus: Your “diagnosis” will come with looooots more resources to help you make meaningful progress toward that new goal. (Because the only thing better than nine leadership resources is tailored resources to your specific situation … am I right?)

What are some of the most helpful leadership resources you’ve come across? Share your favorites in the comments.