Guest blog by Clare McNamara

Our latest guest blog is by Clare McNamara, who runs Move Ahead which coaches business leaders to make step changes to their performance and to achieve balance across their professional and working lives. Her clients include senior people in multinational corporations and smaller, niche, high-growth business. For this article, she has been focusing in on the advantages women can bring to business growth! As you might imagine, it’s a subject very close to Dangerous marketing’s heart!

Good news for women business owners – we really are better equipped to grow our businesses!

When it comes to business growth, most people would agree that we all need to do whatever we can to successfully grow our companies. 

And the truly great news for women is that they usually exhibit a key strength that is most likely to fuel business growth over the long-term – Empathy.

Two quick facts:

  1. Research shows that the higher the level of Emotional Intelligence1 in a business, the healthier the bottom line. Empathy, the foundation of Emotional Intelligence, is key to achieving results in a number of areas including customer satisfaction, better recruitment, higher sales, more repeat business and increased productivity. (*see below for examples including L’Oreal and New Zealand Telecom).
  2. Women usually have greater emotional intelligence than men. This seems to be because we have had more practice at some interpersonal skills than men, at least in cultures like the UK and the US where girls are brought up to be more attuned to feelings and their nuances than are boys.

So, how can we maximise our power to use Empathy and target growth?

I am working with a number of high-performing business leaders to help them realise and enhance their ability to empathise with and influence stakeholders.  Although the media regularly cover many angles of business – from consumer confidence, financial strategies and marketing to difficulties in accessing lending – what is rarely mentioned is Emotional Intelligence – a key component of which is Empathy.

In my view this is a glaring omission. People with high emotional intelligence tend to be more successful in life than those with lower levels, even if their classic IQ (e.g. logical reasoning, math skills, spatial skills, understanding analogies, verbal skills etc) is average.

As part of my coaching work, I have developed a focus on Emotional Intelligence, and works with my clients to encourage their greater uptake of the benefits it offers:

My “at a glance” guide of how to build your Empathy and use Emotional Intelligence to your advantage

  1. Acknowledge that you may have something to learn and that you personally may need to alter your thinking. If you believe you already know all there is to know about human psychology and business growth, don’t bother reading on. For this to work you have to believe in the capacity to change and that you are part of the solution.
  2. Get a feel for how your business measures up. There are plenty of free resources on the internet to get you started. Contact me for further information.
  3. Decide where you are strong and make a plan to use such strengths to even greater effect.
  4. Assess where you may have limitations. In most cases just being aware of them and the impact they have on others will suffice. It is almost always more efficient to build on what’s going well first.
  5. Ideally, get yourself an experienced Business Coach who will work with you on your Emotional Intelligence to ensure you make the necessary changes. In so doing you will drill down and really get to know who you are, who your people are and understand what you can practically do to better influence your people and your customers.

Which of your Emotional Intelligence strengths could you develop further? How could you use empathy to make your relationships inside and outside the business really work for you? How can you take your business from good to great?

If you can see the practical benefits of working on EI but need someone to get you started, Clare is the person to contact. She is known for her ability to combine empathy and challenge to get your business where you need it to go. Her preference is to work with proactive people who see problems as opportunities to exploit, not roadblocks that prevent action. You can contact her by leaving a comment on this blog article or go to her website www.moveahead.co.uk

*The examples mentioned earlier: at L’Oreal, sales people selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold those selected using the company’s old selection procedure and there was 63% less staff turnover during the first year2; New Zealand Telecom categorized 70 senior leaders into high and low performance groups based on established leadership performance indicators: 48% of what differentiated the high and low performing leaders could be attributed to EI attributes – in other words, almost one-half of the skill set required for successful execution of this organization’s leadership competencies is comprised of emotional and social skills.3

1There are many definitions but I like Daniel Goleman’s 5 domains: Self- Awareness – knowing your emotions; Self-regulation – managing your own emotions;  Motivation – motivating yourself to reach goals;  Empathy – recognising and understanding other people’s emotions; Social Skills – inducing desirable responses in others (for further information see http://danielgoleman.info/)

2Spencer & Spencer, 1993

3http://downloads.mhs.com/ei/MHS_Brief_ROI.pdf

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Guest Blog by George Hyde

We are delighted to have this guest piece by George Hyde, Operations Manager at Dartmoor Zoological Park which is a great place to visit since it was bought and re-opened by Ben Mee, his family and dedicated team. We are very grateful to George and his team for supporting our 2009 Entrepreneurs Bootcamp – Ben gave our Bootcampers a brilliant presentation about how to hold on to a business ideal whilst life conspires to defeat you and then gave us more of his valuable time to give the Bootcampers a guided tour of the zoo – even introducing them to the tigers! You can read about the adventures of getting a zoo up and running in Ben’s book “We Bought a Zoo” – or wait for the Hollywood version as filming gets under way this autumn!

George’s article focuses on the implications of all the different ways a business message can be interpreted by its intended audience. This piece is clearly straight from the heart, as George was inspired to write it having been on the receiving end of two very different interpretations of the same message – one a complaint and the other high praise – as proof of not being able to please all the people all the time! It is a problem that affects all of us in business so let us know your thoughts and comments. Enjoy!

Are we speaking the same language?

In the context of marketing and public relations, it’s easy to think the word ‘interpretation’ to be a little overblown. It often seems to be an overstatement of simpler more fundamental tools and practices. After all, what’s wrong with “educating,” “informing” or “explaining?”.

Well, there are times when the explanation of what we do (or do not do) is implicit and obvious, requiring little or no additional effort to get our message across. However, to communicate effectively we need to be sensitive to situations where the implication of our actions does not concur with what we actually want to convey. When we become immersed in a project, particularly if it’s a little radical and off the chart, and even more so when it’s something that enthuses and excites us, it’s easy to make assumptions about the willingness or ability of others to join us on the ride.

In short, we need to recognise that, despite our well thought out reasons, personal convictions and enthusiasm, sometimes our audience isn’t speaking our language and our actions are in need of interpretation. Recently, this realisation has given me reason to rethink our position and has consequently given rise to an ambitious and important programme.

At Dartmoor Zoological Park you’ll find lots of animals. Big surprise – it’s a zoo! Our animals are, of course fantastic; healthy and happy; well cared for, etc., and we’ve got some of the best enclosures in the business. So what?

Well, we do have a USP and it’s a real beauty, in every sense of the word.

DZP is set in 33 acres of beautiful natural woodland. It’s packed to the perimeter with a fantastic range of trees and vegetation and the spaces outside the animal enclosures are teaming with life. Take a look around and if you’re lucky you’ll find shrews, voles, field mice, stoats, weasels, adders and much more, not to mention over 40 species of birds.

One prominent feature is a truly magnificent turkey oak which has been part of this wonderful landscape for over two centuries, first taking root back when Napoleon was the big name in Europe.

Not so long ago, a 20 meter beech tree came to the end of its days as it spectacularly crashed to the ground on the far side of the pond in our walk-through exhibit (far from public areas I hasten to add, otherwise it would have been safely felled long ago). Now this mighty specimen stretches out over the still waters of the pond. Its twisted branches, like the limbs of a fallen giant warrior frozen in a last act of defiance, now provide shelter for the rich variety of bird, mammal and insect life that inhabits the area.

The presence of this dead monster, silently wrestling with a host of creeping vegetation, is indicative of a particular attitude here at DZP, one which informs and shapes our approach to almost everything we do here.

As you explore the park’s heavily shaded narrow pathways you won’t find neatly trimmed edges and manicured borders. There’s no colour coordinated seasonally strategic decorative planting schemes. (With one notable exception: a small garden adjacent to our new monkey enclosure which is dedicated to the memory of Deborah Faupel in recognition of her and her family’s extreme generosity in support of the park.) You may even come across thistles, bramble and stinging nettles, and whole swathes of wildly overgrown bracken and ferns bursting out of traditional Devon walls and through the rough wooden fencing, often encroaching on the loose stone pathways.

The rough ‘n’ ready, unruly, unkempt face of DZP is natural, but it’s no accident. This is how we want it to be.

It has to be said that for the most part, visitors to DZP really don’t notice. They tell us how they love the friendly, welcoming, down-to-earth feel of the place and (without wishing to be smug) how DZP is “so much nicer than all those commercial zoos.” People tell us how wonderful our animals are, but when they express this general preference, what they’re commenting on is the zoo’s setting. It’s the absence of shiny plastic and stainless steel, of fibreglass animal shaped rubbish bins, and rigid impersonal “this way!” signs. And its very rewarding for us when they… well, when they just, ‘get it.’

But this is not always the case. When visitors’ expectations run contrary to our slightly off-beat approach, the resulting misinterpretation can be potentially very damaging.

Whilst to us, a rowdy unkempt plot of land is an unapologetic display of Mother Nature’s handiwork, a welcoming home to a host of indigenous species, and a great place to run a bug-safari, to others it bespeaks a lack of attention to detail and at worst, downright laziness.

Perhaps more importantly, there’s a whole lot of work and thinking that goes into our approach that goes well beyond the aesthetic, work for which we’re just not getting credit.

For example, one thing that is not immediately evident is that our approach shapes the way we manage and develop the animal collection. Rather than look for a plot of land upon which to place an enclosure, we look at how we can best encapsulate what the land has to offer, considering the likes of landscaping, trees, established vegetation and natural water supplies. This way, we can be sure that our development efforts have minimal impact on the natural resources of the park whilst maximising animal welfare.

Of course, we haven’t pursued this approach in a total vacuum. Visitors do sometimes express an opposing view and our staff are more than capable of explaining our reasoning. But the difficulty arises when visitors reserve their criticism for their friends and family or prefer to share their thoughts in the increasingly popular world of social media.

We clearly need to do more to counteract this and bring all our visitors on board.

The case for interpretation was put most clearly to me recently thanks to a visit from Stephen Hussey of Devon Wildlife Trust. It was refreshing to have a conversation with an outsider who not only understood, but thoroughly supported our approach to maintaining our fantastic natural resources and recognised the difficulties and importance of sharing our vision with the outside world.

Stephen highlighted the value of engaging our visitors in an informative, productive way in order to share and encourage support for our vision. In a word, interpretation.

Again, one can cover a lot of ground here simply talking about informing and educating. But interpretation is more than that.

To simply translate is to demonstrate the equivalence between content in one modality and another. But to interpret is to go beyond that and draw upon a host of contingent variables. Taking language as the most obvious example, this might involve cultural, historic, economic and geographic variables. The aim being to augment and amplify the translation by creating a more comprehensive connection with the audience. (Anyone who has studied a second language will be familiar with the potential pitfalls of transliteration.)

The ultimate aim of interpretation then, is not merely to settle on understanding, but to go beyond this, and seek agreement. Once secured, agreement opens the door to support and support leads to participation. Ultimately, we want all of our publics, our customers, suppliers and employees, to be on board. We want them all to be ‘speaking our language.’

Our interpretation work with DWT will likely take the form of large information displays at key points around the park highlighting those areas that are currently open to misinterpretation. These signs will illustrate the reasoning, the proximate consequences and ultimate benefits of our approach. In addition, we’ll be introducing an ongoing programme of activities that will engage the visitors, allowing them to get hands-on, opening their eyes to the rich diversity of indigenous life in the park.

Of course, this all comes with a significant price-tag, so we’re busy searching for a corporate sponsor. A task that will no doubt involve a great deal of interpretation work.

So, when members of your audience still don’t get it and you find yourself having to spell-it-out like you’re talking to a five year old, you still run the risk that they’ll go on to tell all their friends how arrogant and wrong-headed you are.

When you’ve thought something through and you’re pushing forward, convinced of your sound reasoning, but find yourself hampered by misunderstanding and a lack of support, ask yourself, “Are we speaking the same language?”.

Be sensitive to the need for interpretation and look for ways to engage your audience, strike a connection, and get them to share your vision rather than merely understand it.

Guest Blog by Karima-Catherine Goudiam

We are delighted to have our latest #BeMyGuest blog by Karima-Catherine Goundiam, a “citizen of the world” based in Montreal, Canada who advises businesses on how to integrate social media in their overall business strategy.  We connected with K-C through Twitter thanks to the Like Minds conference in February 2010 and have discovered a shared view on the role social media plays in business. We aim to swap blog posts between our two businesses on a regular basis to provide a transatlantic viewpoint on all aspects of marketing and business.

Why Facebook should quickly improve its Business Pages

Social media is radically changing the way we relate with our environment, at large. People, brands, companies all want to communicate with their ecosystems. Amongst social media platforms, Facebook is the heavyweight, whether for individuals, brands and companies.

Facebook has been initially developed for individuals and business pages have been created in 2008. Now that brands and companies are flocking onto the social network, they must adapt the platform to their business needs.

A recent article from Jeffrey Cohen detailing why Facebook is doing it wrong for B2B businesses makes me want to extend the thought and say that they are doing it wrong for all businesses.

I have identified three major areas that would need improvement as businesses Pages need to be flexible enough to evolve with the company’s need and business purpose.

The first area that needs major fixing is in Page creation. Most businesses Pages have been created through the personal account of the staff that created the Page. As a business, you have to think about what happens when that staff member moves on or changes company? When I come onto a project, most social media assets have already been created and the page creator is the owner of the Page forever – at least until Facebook decides to change that feature.

Facebook_help_May3_2010

The second major improvement I would like to see is that Profile Pages cannot be converted into business Pages. I started a Profile Page a few years ago, and now as a business consultant, I need to use the equity of my Profile Page towards my business practice. Creating a new Page does not make sense for now, as I am a solopreneur and I do not want to have to redirect my contacts towards yet, another page. I work with entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who run into the same challenge; they are using their personal brands for business and need to be able to convert their personal Profiles, if they choose to do so, towards a Business Page, where they would get more visibility and business features.

In the meantime, I can always use professional applications sucha as Linkedin, Professional, and News to leverage your personal profile towards business purposes.

Finally, the third major flaw is that once a business has chosen a Page name, it cannot modify it. Facebook states in its help page:

Facebook Help for Pages

As this may not be dramatic, it would be useful if for example, the company wishes to change name in an effort to rebrand. Earlier this year, Comcast pushed Xfinity for its cable, Internet and phone services. As you can see on the screen shot below, Comcast is still Comcast. Not Xfinity.

Comcast Facebook Page on 26 April 2010

For now, One option, for a business who rebrands its name, is to delete the Page and recreate a new one. Thus, losing all the equity of the current company Page. The other option, is to keep the old name, thus, running the risk to confuse and frustrate even more its fans.

What do you think? Are there other features you wish to find on the Facebook business Pages? Let me know.

#BeMyGuest Thank You

So we have reached the end of March 2010 and I just wanted to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all our guest contributors who wrote blogs for us as part of #BeMyGuest month, a brilliant idea thought up by Adam Vincenzini and Emily Cagle – “It’s what social media and sharing is all about”. It was so simple – start by using Twitter to tweet out your own blog details and preferences (eg topics, editing style etc) with the hashtag #BeMyGuest.

We were delighted to have six great guest pieces, all of which can be found here on our Be My Guest Blog (you can search for them by author or topic to the right!).

Guest Blog by Colin Shelbourn

And now for something completely different! As our grand finale for the official #BeMyGuest month (although we love the idea so much, we will be continuing to host guest blogs!), we are delighted to feature a piece by Britain’s first Radio Cartoonist Colin Shelbourn.  This is Colin’s reciprocal piece for my article that appeared on his blog earlier in March on my cat’s lesson on communication!  And we are especially thrilled to have a dog cartoon drawn by Colin specially for this piece. Enjoy!

A Dog in the Office

One of the advantages of working from home is that you are allowed to take your dog into the office. After all, chances are he would be there anyway, going through your waste paper basket and saving you the expense of a shredder. There are other notable advantages to having one in the office (a dog, not a waste paper basket). Here are ten of them:

  1. You have something to boss around. This is very handy when you work alone as it gives you a sense of power.
  2. You have someone in the office who listens attentively to every word you say. Admittedly they’re scanning your output for key sounds such as “biscuit”, “tea” and “postman” but it’s a comforting illusion.
  3. They provide exercise. As a home office worker, this is definitely a Good Thing, although it’s hard to convince yourself on wet days.
  4. They can occasionally be trained to do useful things, e.g. shred those letters with menacing windows.
  5. They are entertaining. Training mine to growl whenever Chris Moyles appears on the radio was one of the most useful seven hours I’ve ever spent.
  6. They are a valuable networking tool. I know the names of many dogs in my locality although I haven’t a clue what their owners are called.
  7. They hoover up biscuits you drop at the computer.
  8. They teach you to become less materialistic. After they’ve eaten several of your favourite books and CDs you learn to become quite zen-like on the topic of worldly possessions.
  9. They enable you to come to terms with the idea of mortality and death. Mostly by killing moths, worms, slugs and any small insects which stray into the office. (I leave the door open a lot.)
  10. They make you laugh. Well, mine does. And not always from a sense of hysterical panic.

And life with a dog is always interesting. For example, in the course of just one day recently, my dog achieved the following:

  • ate a snail. The evidence was a silvery trail which stopped in the middle of the office carpet. The offending mollusc had either unexpectedly evolved into a moth or Dog had enjoyed French cuisine.
  • rearranged the garden pond. To do this he removed a vast chunk of weed and then ran into the office to kill it.
  • dismantled a spider. Said arachnid kept galloping across the office floor, hotly pursued by Dog, who was curious to see how all the legs worked.

After all the activity, Dog redeemed himself by curling up under the desk and going to sleep at my feet. He looked quite cute. Right up to the point when I noticed the missing sandwich…

Colin has been a professional writer and cartoonist for 25 years (you can see his latest works on his website’s gallery). His work has appeared in The Times, Reader’s Digest, Private Eye and he is the author of several books. His latest, Drawing Cartoons, is published in May and contains several drawings of dogs. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

Whilst our blog typically features business-focused articles, we all need a break sometime so we are delighted to have made Colin’s acquaintance as we now have a great source for our regular coffee-break chuckle by looking at his latest cartoons based on the headlines from the Westmoreland Gazette. Leave a comment and let us know how you get your tea-coffee break laugh in the office!

Guest Blog by Mark Jennings

Mark Jennings is the Managing Director of D8 Digital (based in Glasgow and Birmingham), an on-line Brand Communications and Digital/Web Design business with the interesting twist of also providing off-line Interior Design for Interiors & Exhibitions. I originally came across Mark on Twitter (@MarkofRespect) which led me to his blog Views from a Benign Despot. One posting particularly grabbed my attention, so I am delighted that Mark has given us permission to reproduce it here as part of #BeMyGuest month.  Mark even introduces the article for us: “We often bemoan the price of petrol, a few pennies more per litre has us driving to the next petrol station – but it is funny that when buying a car we would not walk 10 metres to another car dealer to save a pound. Our view of money and time and especially our own personal value is all mixed up. My blog post looks at how far you would walk to save 20p.” His blog posting originally appeared 31st January 2010. Enjoy!

How far would you walk to save 20p?

This week I have been thinking a lot about the value we place on our time.

The other day I found myself in a tiny north east town in Scotland, an hour early for a meeting. Having driven for 4 hours straight to get there, not to put too fine a point on it, I was searching for a toilet.

The obvious places did not present themselves so I decided to see if such things as public toilets still exist. I was duly directed to one, about 2 minutes walk away, but when I got there it required a 20p piece to open the door – I shook my pockets dry and turned out pounds and 50s but the 20p eluded me. Stuck, I asked a couple of locals if they had change. The woman produced a single 20p leaving me with the only option but to offer her 50p for the 20p just to get into the toilet. As it happens she did not leave me with that option, saying instead that it “would be crazy to waste 20p when there is a free toilet in Tescos” as she put the money away.

Of course, this being a tiny town there was a giant Tesco, I should have realised.

I made the decision not to argue and take the advice. So where is the Tesco I asked: “Oh, turn right, then go though over the grass, beside the old bakers, past the large park, through the trees and then you will see it. About 10 minutes walk or so”. 10 minutes walk to save 20p.

That is the point. I was quite happy to spend 50p for the pleasure of using the facilities there and then, probably more. Walking for 10 minutes there and 10 minutes back was an added dimension that sounded like a bad deal. As I followed the Narnian directions my mind turned to think about value.

This was saving me a penny a minute. A measly penny.

Should that matter? The time was my own, I was not due anywhere for an hour so the money saving walk was not conflicting with responsibilities. It reminded me of the scenario we all experience when trying to save money – the true value and how intrinsically this is related to scale.

What I mean is that if you were buying something for a pound you might go to the shop next door if the same item was 80p, saving 20p is valuable in the scale of that transaction and yet how much would you have to save when buying a car for you to cross the road to a rival dealer – a lot more than 20p I imagine. We seem to use scale to determine true value when saving money but this seems to me to be the wrong equation and thinking more deeply about it made me question other areas of life where a quick discount is perceived to be paramount VS true value – such as furiously lane swapping on a congested motorway to save 5 minutes, but finishing the drive feeling stressed, or a worse outcome. How does the perception of time and value become hardwired?

Thoughts, feelings, criticism @markofrespect on Twitter, or below.

Guest Blog by Janelle Hardacre

Our guest blog this week as part of #BeMyGuest month is from Janelle Hardacre who is a final year public relations student at Newcastle University who describes herself as “…  a budding professional with a penchant for social media.” She has a very interesting blog called “Great Expectations – Musings of a Budding PR Guru”. From what we’ve seen so far, she’s certainly on the right track! Enjoy!

Your Digital Footprint – 5 Tips to Remember

As a budding PR pro on the cusp of graduation and looking to take my first step into the industry, I realised that I am already responsible for my very own client. Me.

At the moment I am having to manage my own reputation and ensure that my key messages are received by my targets audience, employers. In the age of Web 2.0 it’s vital that my digital footprint is communicating all the right messages, and setting me apart from my competitors with similar degrees and experience.

I have put together a list of things to consider before sending a tweet, changing a status or writing a blog post.

1. Now more than ever, recruiters are turning to social networking sites to check out potential employees. So it’s a good idea to set profiles such as Facebook to private and have public profiles on professional networks like LinkedIn.

2. Don’t be afraid to be you. Employers may be put off if your personality doesn’t shine through on your LinkedIn profile or blog posts. Just ensure that you steer clear of topics which may dent your reputation, like how you’re pulling yet another all nighter to finish an assignment or slagging off a former employer.

3. Google yourself. One of quickest and easiest ways employers can chuck out applications is by checking out the first page of hits for your name on Google. If you’re lucky enough to have an usual name like me, use this to your advantage. By writing a blog, being active on social networks and Twitter, and contributing to other blogs, Google becomes your online portfolio. Try typing your name in and see if you’re happy with the results. I’m afraid all you John Smith’s out there will have to work that little bit harder to get noticed on Google, so why not pick a distinctive name for your blog and keep it consistent on all your networks, that way you’ll become more ‘searchable’.

4. Use social networks to network. I’ve been amazed at how many sterling contacts I’ve made through Twitter in the past few months and how many fantastic job opportunities are tweeted every day. Don’t just discount people if they aren’t hiring though, they may be able to offer you advice and support, and by keeping up a steady flow of communication, you’ll be in mind if they to end up hiring or have been asked for recommendations.

5. Be as consistent as possible.  It doesn’t look great if your last blog post or tweet was four months ago. So try to be as active as possible online. I know this is easier said than done, particularly if like me every spare minute is being spent on dissertations and exams. But working it into your daily routine can do wonders to your online rep, you never know who could be checking out your sites.

So there’s a few things to bear in mind. Why not also check out Mashable’s post from last year for some similar tips from the perspective of the employer.

http://mashable.com/2009/04/08/social-media-recruitment/