Monday, July 14, 2014

You’re Never as Good as You Think You Are

Go for BHAGs, but don’t forget basic blocking and tackling

My dad had a great saying whenever he used to drive me home from a game or a meet growing up: “You’re never as good as you think you are, but you’re not as bad as you think, either.”

If Dad sensed I was getting overconfident, he’d remind that me that there’s always someone better around the corner, and that the competition would only get tougher with each new level I ascended. But, if I was down in the dumps after a tough loss, he’d focus on one or two things I did well and remind me how much better I’d gotten since the year before.

That was helpful in college and the early years of my career. I was captain of my high school track and cross-country team and got named to many All-area honors team. I thought I was pretty talented until I got to college. Guess what? The other 30 guys were also captains of their high school teams, and I quickly went from leading the pack to barely keeping up with the back of the pack. Mind you. I was running faster than I ever dreamed possible, but your perspective changes when you’re getting lapped instead of standing on the winner’s podium.

I later learned my Dad was a city champion swimmer in high school, but lasted only one season at an elite college program when he found out how "real swimmers" trained.

BHAGs and basics

I bring this up because now is the time of year that many of you are holding, or planning to hold, your offsite retreats. You’ll spend a few days away from the daily grind to clear the air, review your strategy and make BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for the next fiscal year.

Just don’t pull a Brazil.

Even if you’re No.1 or close to No.1 in your niche, don’t think you “own” that niche or are entitled to the top spot based on past performance. You’ve got to stay hungry and earn the business every day. The minute you let your guard down and forget how to fight for new clients (and retain existing clients) is the minute you get blindsided by a savvy upstart or a new wrinkle from a longstanding rival. 

BHAGs are great motivators. Just don’t forget the basic blocking and tackling that go your firm to where you are today. Also, don’t throw in the towel if you’ve recently lost a big client or key employee. No great team or company revolves around just one player.  Empower everyone else to step it up a notch.

Lessons learned from the World Cup

In case you missed the end of the FIFA World Cup of soccer this weekend, host nation Brazil, the country with the most World Cup championships in history--the country that invented the term jogo bonito (Portuguese, for “beautiful game” and internationally popularized by Nike commercials) thought it was their divine right to win the World Cup on their home soil this summer. No Way Jose. Or as the Brazilians would say, “imagina na copa” when things go horribly wrong.

Brazil showed up, but they didn’t show up to play. Big difference.

In the semi-finals against eventual champion Germany, Brazil was missing two key players (one for injury and one for poor sportsmanship) and basically threw in the towel before the game started. A brief defensive lapse let in a sloppy goal in the 11th minute of the game. But, instead of regrouping against the disciplined and well-coached Germans, Brazil conceded four more goals in the next 20 minutes of the game and had one of the most infamous meltdowns in global soccer history. As my former colleague Ron Rudolph posted the other day: “Brazil Is Getting Waxed

It will take years for much of the Brazilian population to get over their 7-1 humiliation to the Germans. But, they had a chance for redemption just a few days later in the 3rd place “consolation” game against highly regarded Netherlands. Again, this game was for bragging rights to be the third best team in the world at the planet’s most popular sport. The Dutch relished the opportunity. The Brazilians turned down their noses at it. Apparently the third place game was beneath Brazil’s dignity and they left the tournament with their tail between their legs, 0-3 losers again.

*** We also recommend David Brook’s recent op-ed piece
Baseball or Soccer. Sometimes the non-sports writers give you the best take on the big game.

Conclusion

Brazilian soccer will eventually return to the top echelon of the world stage. But it will take a rebuilding effort like Germany’s that was 12 years in the making.

Key Takeaway: Show up every day ready to play. You never know who or what you’re up against. Always look through the front windshield, not the rearview mirror, and great opportunities will find you like open space on the soccer pitch.
Best, HB


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TAGS: Brazil soccer meltdown, Brazil getting waxed, Ron Rudolph, BHAGs, You’re never as good as you think, David Brooks Baseball or Soccer

Friday, July 04, 2014

Respect Everyone, Fear No One.

Lessons learned from U.S. soccer and our founding fathers  

My high school wrestling coach had a favorite saying: “Fear no one, but respect everyone.” What he meant by that is you don’t take any opponent for granted, no matter how poor their record or how timid they look strolling out to the mat. By the same token, he said you don’t back down from any foe, even if he’s an undefeated state champion who looks like he’s in a bad mood and hasn’t eaten in days. It seemed to work pretty well Coach Neil (Buckley). He never had a losing season in 50 years and was believed to be one of the winningest high school wrestling coaches ever when he passed 20 years ago. Not bad for a guy who never wrestled himself.

Fear no one, but respect everyone is a mantra that tennis great, Roger Federer, is fond of reciting, too.  He’s having one heck of a run at Wimbledon this week. Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the philosophy our founding fathers had two and a half centuries ago. Like a scrappy startup, what they lacked in resources and training, they made up for in agility and fearlessness. They certainly didn’t expect to take over the 13 original colonies without a fight, but they weren’t intimidated by the Brits and other 800 pound gorillas in their Colonial land grab “space.”
 
U.S.A soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann, continues to take flak for comments he made at the outset of the World Cup Soccer tournament when said the U.S. was NOT going to win it all. He wasn’t being pessimistic, he was being realistic.

Big difference.

Many journalists and patriotic soccer buffs missed the point. Klinsmann said the U.S. wasn’t going to win it all, but certainly deserved to be on the same field as the planet’s best national soccer teams. That would be a first for U.S. soccer. Klinsmann also said we not only belonged on the same field as the world’s best, but we didn’t need to wait for the favorites to dictate the pace of the game. We were now good enough to set the tone ourselves. After defeating Ghana, the U.S. tied highly ranked Portugal and gave Euro titans Germany and Belgium all they could handle in close one-goal games.


Same goes for your firm. If you’re bidding on a game-changing contract against a much larger rival, don’t be intimidated. Take a good honest look at your rivals’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. Make sure the client understands the special talents and services you can deliver….and how hungry you are for their business. You’re good enough to set the terms and dictate the pace of the negotiations. Don’t let the client or the Big Boys do it for you.



Conclusion

The U.S. may be out of the World Cup, but the patriotic fervor the team stirred up—and TV ratings that far surpassed the World Series and NBA finals—is something you should take note of if you have Millennials at your firm or are trying to recruit them. They have a global view of the world, and increasingly soccer is their No.1 favorite sport.

Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. Enjoy the fireworks. You earned it.
Best, HB


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TAGS: wrestling, Neil Buckley, U.S.A soccer, Jurgen Klinsmann, tennis Roger Federer, Wimbledon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Take a Page from U.S. Soccer—Use Your Head and Your Best Leg

And finish what you start!
 
Don’t know the difference between a soccer ball and a beach ball? That’s OK. You can still learn a thing or two from the U.S. men’s national soccer team that’s currently representing our country at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

We’ll resist the temptation to use the cliché “it’s never over till it’s over.” You can thank the New York Times today for dusting off that overused malapropism attributed to legendary New York Yankees manager, Yogi Berra. What irked us about the
Times article was that it implied the overachieving U.S. soccer somehow got shafted by the referee on Sunday when Portugal scored a dramatic game tying goal as the final seconds of “stoppage time” wound down. That’s right. Soccer has a large digital game clock on the scoreboard—but the “official” clock is the one that only the head referee sees on his wrist watch. The head ref decides when a game is officially over.

As President Obama would say, “let’s be perfectly clear.” The U.S. didn’t get screwed. We let our guard down for a second and didn’t finish the job after 95 minutes of superb play against one of the world’s best players and best teams. In a flash, near-certain advancement into the final round of 16 teams vanished as quickly as the temporary aerosol spray lines that the referees use to mark free kicks on the field.

The last-second letdown by the U.S. defense was like not proofing the last slide of your big keynote presentation, or like not checking the numbers on the last table of your annual report to the board or like not checking the last job reference on a potential key hire’s resume. It always comes back to get you.

Bottom line: You have to stay 100 percent focused 100 percent of the time. You never know where great danger or great opportunity lurks. We tell the kids on my son’s baseball team that if you’re not paying attention in the field, the ball will find you. It’s remarkable how often that really happens. Doesn’t matter if it’s the starting shortstop or the backup right fielder. Same thing in business.

Here’s the thing about stoppage time

Unlike most American sports that can’t seem to go more than 30 seconds without a time-out, two minutes of commercials, and extended discussions and high fiving between players, coaches and refs, the soccer clock just keeps running. That’s right, the clock keeps running even if the ball goes into the stands or an injured player is writhing in pain on the field. Just like real life, time never stops. That being said, soccer referees take note of injury time, out of bounds and other delays in the otherwise continuous flow of the game. As “regulation” time winds down on the official scoreboard clock—World Cup soccer plays two 45 minute halves—a referee holds up a huge Plexiglass placard alerting both teams and the spectators how much “extra time” has been added to the game. In the case of the Portugal vs. U.S. game it was 5 minutes.

Just like in business. You can’t control everything that comes your way, but you CAN control the way you react to every situation that comes your way. The known variable: The refs allotted five minutes of stoppage to the game. You don’t need a sophisticated NASCAR timing system to know that five minutes is approximately 300 seconds—not 10 minutes or 15 minutes or 20 minutes. IS IT REALLY THAT HARD TO STAY FOCUSED a few seconds longer than you expected? You fight hard until you hear the final whistle, then you shake hands with the other team and do it all again the next day. Finish what you start.

NOTE: Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.
 
Meanwhile, there have been some bright spots for the U.S. Very few of the global soccer cognoscenti expected much from the U.S. squad. But here they are, two weeks into the tournament, still undefeated in one of the toughest groups of the tournament. A respectable showing Thursday against powerhouse Germany and the Yanks could advance to the final 16—it just didn’t have to be this hard.

In their earlier first round game, the U.S. defeated African powerhouse Ghana 2-1 when super substitute John Brooks rose above the Ghanaian defense with four minutes left in the game to drive a header low and hard, just out of the reach of the goalkeeper for the game winning goal. Brooks become the first U.S. sub ever to score a goal in World Cup play.

Conclusion
As advertising exec, Are Traasdahl, explained in a recent New York Times interview you need to follow the “better leg” theory. Whether in business or on the soccer field, everyone is better at certain things and not as good at others, he said. You need to understand each teammate’s strengths and weakness and put them in position to use their “better leg” as often as possible. That’s what U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann did so well against Ghana game and not so well against Portugal. Let’s hope he gets it together against his former countrymen from Germany.
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TAGS: U.S. World Cup soccer, Yogi Berra, stoppage time, Jonathan Brooks, Are Traasdahl, Jurgen Klinsmann
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Bloomberg's Advice: Like What You Do;You'll Do More of It and Be More Successful

If you think you’ve been getting more “out of office” replies than usual, you’re not alone. With August becoming the new September in this hypercompetitive world, vacation season is already upon us in June. So, now is the time to dig in and stay focused, even when it seems everyone else you depend on is just “mailing it in” from their beach house, pool deck or lakeside cabin.

As many of you have probably learned intuitively, you’re going to gravitate to things you like to do in order to make a living. And if you can make a good living doing things you like to do, then you’re going to work harder to get better at those skills.

You didn’t just fall into your occupation

It’s not by accident that you became a top notch financial advisor, attorney or insurance professional. There’s something about the intellectual challenge of these demanding occupations, and the ability to help people, that you find infinitely fascinating and rewarding. It what drives you to put up with the long hours, constant pressure and demanding clients you serve.

Obviously the money’s great, but according to Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of NYC and billionaire founder of Bloomberg, LP: “If you like what you do, you’re going to do more of it and the more you do of it, the more successful you’re going to be—and that give you more reason to like it.” Bloomberg shared these pearls of obvious wisdom last week on a Bloomberg West TV interview with fellow panelist Lloyd Blankfien, CEO of Goldman Sachs. 

Sounds simple enough. And if you dislike something, the process works exactly in reverse said Bloomberg , as “you spiral downward” becoming less successful, the more you do things you don’t like.


So if you feel like you’re stuck in a dead end job or a stagnant practice then you have no one to blame but yourself implied Bloomberg, reminding viewers that we still live in one of the most open, most entrepreneurial societies in the world where everyone has a chance to control their own destiny.

Conclusion

Have a great week. Stay focused. But don’t, forget to take a walk or get some exercise every day no matter how many things you have on your plate. It’ll be waiting for you when you get back and you’ll have more patience and energy to tackle it. That’s a far better approach than grinding it out and mailing it in.

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Are You Blasting or Listening When You Market Online?

Since last week’s post about measuring what you should (not what you can) generated some nice feedback, we thought it merited a follow up discussion.

As our good friend Stephen D. Rappaport noted in a recent guest article for one of our clients, “social media is still considered a broadcast medium” by too many organizations and “that’s a huge missed opportunity.”  

While Steve’s piece was intended for trade association executives, many of his key points are relevant for financial and professional service firms like yours. For instance:
·         Too many organizations still treat social media as a one-way broadcast medium and are missing great engagement and intelligence-gathering opportunities from clients and prospects.

·         Social media strategy is much greater than merely nudging or bribing your audience to share, tweet or follow your content and calling that engagement.

·         Think of your audience as belonging to a tribe, with your leadership as the elders. Discover the core reasons for your tribe’s existence and why members want to belong.

NOTE: Click here for information about Steve’s new book, The Digital Metrics Field Guide The Definitive Reference for Brands using the Web, Social Media, Mobile Media. Put in on your summer reading list.

Conclusion

Whether it’s a tweet, a blog post, an enewsletter or a video, if you’re still using social media to blast things out to clients and prospects—rather than using it to stimulate a discussion—then you’re missing the point. No matter how well your pieces are designed and written, if you’re using them as a one-way bullhorn rather than a two-way dialogue, then it just shows you’re cheap, possibly lazy and not respectful of your clients’ and prospects’ time.

Have a great weekend. Best, HB

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TAGS: Steve Rappaport, Digital Metrics Field Guide, measuring social and mobile media, one way broadcast vs. two-way medium 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Are You Measuring What You Can…or What You Should?

Most of you on this distribution list are numbers people. We live in a world of Big Data, analytics, CRM, BPM, ROI and benchmarking. Even the baseball stat junkies among us have a profession named after them—sabermetrics. So how come it’s so hard for us to determine if our marketing is working, especially our digital marketing, which is supposed to be so measurable? 

As our good friend
Stephen D. Rappaport noted in a recent guest article for one of our clients, “The great majority of digital metrics put a number on tactical results—the things that campaigns encourage people to do, such as opening emails, clicking links, reading pages and viewing videos, posting and commenting, sharing, downloading content, installing apps, liking, checking-in, and friending, connecting or following.

But according to Rappaport, who’s been a longtime advisor to our firm, putting a number on tactical results is not the whole story. We’re often measuring data that’s easier to collect, not what’s strategically meaningful. Instead, Steve says you need to:

*  
Develop a theory about how digital media should help your firm or organization achieve tangible goals like thought leaders, client retention, recruiting, or new client acquisition.
·     
 * 
Create a measurement framework based on your theory, such as awareness, engagement, participation and advocacy/evangelism.
·         * Select and fit metrics to the framework.

NOTE: Click
here for information about Steve’s new book, The Digital Metrics Field Guide The Definitive Reference for Brands using the Web, Social Media, Mobile Media. Put in on your summer reading list.

Conclusion

If you have the courage to ask what you need to hear--not what you want to hear--about your marketing efforts, then you’ll be well on your way to understanding what metrics really mean and what steps to take next. Steve’s got 197 of his favorite metrics for you just waiting to be explored.

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blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.
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TAGS: Steve Rappaport, Digital Metrics Field Guide, sabermetrics, measuring social and mobile media 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Are You Ready for Generation C (Competitive)?

Are you planning to hire youngest members (or prospective members) of your profession this summer? If so, you might want to get to know them better. They bring a lot to the table, but they certainly don’t sit at the same table that you and I did at that age. Don’t waste their talents.

On the surface, Millennials may seem to lack the verbal acumen of previous generations and they certainly don’t seem as willing to pay their dues. But, they’re more than just tech-addicted slackers. They have a huge built-in network of contacts from Day One of their professional lives—contacts that could be useful to you as well. They can find the vast majority of what they need to know right on the web (even if you can’t) and they’re MUCH MORE COMPETITIVE. Much more. University of Michigan studies suggest that today’s students score about 40 percent lower in measures of empathy than students did 30 years ago. Maybe it’s because they’re come of age at a time when “disruption” is considered a good thing, at least in business and technology circles.


Growing up with cutthroat competition

If you have a millennial and Gen next person in your life right now, you know what we mean. Everything from Little League baseball and youth soccer, to marching band to getting into college is substantially more competitive today than it was for older generations. What we did at 18, they’re doing at 14. What we did at 15, they’re doing at 12. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the classroom, the ball field or summer internships. The stakes just seem higher.
As David Brooks’ wrote in his New York Time op-ed piece Tuesday, not only is getting into college more competitive, but students begin to be haunted by fears about their job market prospects much earlier. The image of a “benign job market is pretty much gone (as expectations about what constitutes a good job have risen). Even incoming college freshmen seem to fear they will not find lucrative and rewarding work.”

According to UCLA’s annual study of incoming college freshmen, job training and making money is a much higher priority for today’s students than it was for previous generations. For instance, researchers found that in 1976, 50 percent of freshmen said they were going to college in order to make more money. By 2006, almost 70 percent of freshmen said that. Their values have changed, too. In 1966, only 42 percent of freshmen said that being well-off financially was an essential or very important life goal. By 2005, 75 percent of students said being well-off financially was essential or very important.
“Affluence, once a middling value, is now students’ top life goal,” quipped Brooks. “In the shadow of this more Darwinian job market, it is more acceptable to present yourself as utilitarian, streamlined and success-oriented.”

In order to stay connected with the next generation, Nicole Malcom, Director of Operations for the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) told me recently that “you need to stay abreast of the latest technology, even if you are not currently using it.”  Gregory Brooks, President of the association management company, AMC Source told me NextGen is very resourceful. “They’re connected globally and prefer to bypass red tape. To get to them, you must provide community, tools and resources they need—stuff that they cannot get on their own.”

Conclusion


“The next generation is idealistic and cause-oriented,” according to Chris Williston, voice of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) whom I interviewed recently for Association Adviser.  “They want to connect with your cause, but they need to understand the narrative you’re putting forth and how they can become a part of it.  If you can do that for the next generation, they will tell your story for you, with themselves cast in the starring role.”  If that’s egocentric and narcissistic, so be it. You need Generation C on your team. Learn how to work with them, not against them. Or else, you’ll soon be competing with them.

Have a great weekend. Honor the moms in our life. HB
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TAGS: David Brooks, UCLA study of incoming freshman, University of Michigan study of empathy, Independent Bankers of Texas, AMC Source, Association Adviser, American Holistic Nurses Association